By Heather McCarron
Five young men who pleaded guilty to sex with underage girls have been discharged without conviction.
The men -- aged 17 and 18 at the time of offending, were today sentenced in Opotiki District Court following their arrests in December.
They admitted having consensual sex with younger girls they went to school with.
In sentencing, Judge Louis Bidois found the gravity of the offending was low compared to the impact a conviction would have on the men’s lives.
He noted they all have bright futures, the sex was consensual, and there was no predatory aspect to their offending.
One of the girls tearfully read a victim impact statement to the packed court defending one of the men.
She described him as a gentle giant with a kind heart and wicked sense of humour.
"He never forced me, never tried to make me do anything I didn’t want to do".
The men's lawyers argued a conviction would have a detrimental impact on their job prospects, future travel, sporting pursuits, and families.
Judge Bidois acknowledged the impact the case had had on those involved and the wider community.
"Maybe the law needs to be revisited, or at least, maybe the sentencing approach to these types of things needs to be reassessed".
Each of the men have been ordered to pay $500 for emotional harm.