Warning: This story discusses graphic sexual offending and attempted suicide.
A judge choked back tears before sentencing two notorious sexual predators to eleven months and seven months home detention respectively, a decade after allegations surfaced about their high profile exploits.
The pair, now both aged 27, engaged in group sex with underage girls as young as 14 when they were high school students aged 16 and 17.
A third accused, who is living overseas, has a warrant out for his arrest.
In the Auckland District Court at sentencing on Tuesday Judge John Bergseng granted permanent name suppression.
"I acknowledge that whatever sentence is imposed cannot come close to addressing the harm on these young women when they were just 14 years old, and through to this day."
One of the defendants last year pleaded guilty to two charges of sexual conduct with a young person under 16, the other pleaded guilty to a single charge.
A victim impact statement read to the court on behalf of one of the young women, now 24, said: "It is impossible to put into words the depraved offending."
She said she first encountered the men aged 14 years of age and has suffered "flashbacks, panic attacks and PTSD for close to a decade".
"It makes my family and I both sad and angry that I have gone through this and the offenders have lived their normal lives."
She said the offending impacted her self-esteem to such an extent that "I carved slut and freak into my thighs before counselling. This is the impact".
Judge John Bergseng choked back tears as he described graphic details of some of the offending, which at times involved the use of beer bottles and a deodorant ball.
"The harm to the victims can only be described as profound."
Crown prosecutor Lily Nunweek told the court: "There is a pack aspect to this offending and a real power imbalance with multiple offenders."
She said both victims were 14 at the time.
"Their vulnerability stems from the fact they were intoxicated with multiple offenders. They suffered indignity. The fact these acts were filmed and dispersed to her peers was degrading and cruel," Nunweek told the court.
Another victim in her statement to the court described how she'd attempted suicide twice since.
"The publicity of the case was a lot to handle. All this led me into a downward spiral of mental health and drug addiction which continued for years to come," her statement said.
Defence lawyer for one of the men, Annabel Cresswell, said her client had suffered significantly over the years following media attention about the case, with "death threats, abuse, and harassment".
She said the defendants believed the girls were consenting at the time but "given maturity they now realise it was not informed consent".
Representing the other defendant, lawyer Ron Mansfield KC told Judge Bergseng: "They were all young people and a number of people who engage in group sex with alcohol simply don't get charged… they are being made an example of."
Like Cresswell, he urged the judge to consider a "discharge without conviction to protect his future".
Mansfield said his client had a "dysfunctional upbringing", effectively left to grow up on his own, and was introduced to drugs by his father. He said if his client had been charged at the time of the offending, he would have been dealt with by the Youth Court.
But Judge John Bergseng in sentencing said: "I am not convinced there is a high level of remorse, remorse needn't be extraordinary but it must be genuine. There is a lack of tangible evidence of this."
He denied a discharge without conviction saying that sentence would not reflect the gravity of the offending.
One of the victims urged the judge not to continue name suppression.
"When will this ever stop, I feel like I have little value or worth because of the victim-blaming culture," her victim impact statement said.
He said with regards to permanent name suppression "after careful consideration you meet the requirements of extreme hardship" and if names were to be made public, it would not allow them to move on with their lives.
The first defendant has been sentenced to eleven months home detention on two charges and the second to seven months home detention on the single charge.
Judge Bergseng allowed a reduction to the sentence, saying: "Both of you can call upon your age at the time, youth is relevant it explains the lack of consequential thinking."
Detective Inspector Callum McNeill, relieving district manager of criminal investigations in the Waitematā District, acknowledged the sentencing.
"First and foremost, the Operation Wellesley investigation team would like to acknowledge the victims for their courage in coming forward," he said.
"They have both shown a commitment to seeing this process through in recent years, despite the stress this has placed on themselves and their families.
"We acknowledge what happened to them over a decade ago has continued to have a profound impact on their lives."
Det Insp McNeill said police continue to encourage anyone who may have been a victim of sexual assault, or has matters of concern to report, to always come forward.
"Police take these matters seriously and we will work with them to ensure they can report these matters in confidence," he said.
"All complaints made to Police will be assessed for appropriate further action and for any support services that are required."
Det Insp McNeill added that police are continuing to work through an extradition process regarding a third man who has a warrant to arrest in this case.
"This is an ongoing process and Police are not able to put a timeframe on when any update may be available."
Where to find help and support:
- Shine (domestic violence) - 0508 744 633
- Women's Refuge - 0800 733 843 (0800 REFUGE)
- Need to Talk? - Call or text 1737
- What's Up - 0800 WHATS UP (0800 942 8787)
- Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
- Youthline - 0800 376 633, text 234, email firstname.lastname@example.org or online chat
- Samaritans - 0800 726 666
- Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757
- Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
- Shakti Community Council - 0800 742 584
If you have witnessed or experienced sexual harassment or assault and would like to speak to someone, you could call the HELP support service.