Man in custody for under-age sex

A man whose friendship with a 15-year-old girl developed into a sexual relationship has been remanded in custody for sentence on two under-age sex offences.

The 31-year-old Dunedin man admitted twice having sexual connection with the girl between February 1 and 28.

He was given a warning under the "three strikes" legislation and was refused bail because, Judge Michael Crosbie said, a prison sentence of more than two years was likely.

But the judge agreed to suppress the man's name until sentencing in September to protect the identity of the 15-year-old victim.

In the summary of facts read to the Dunedin District Court yesterday, prosecutor Sergeant Chris George said a friendship had developed between the defendant and the girl after he helped her with her CV. They then started sending sexually explicit text messages to each other.

In early February, the man arranged to meet the girl in town, then took her home where they performed oral sex on each other.

On February 20, the defendant met the girl again. He took her to his house and they had sexual intercourse.

When police spoke to him, he admitted knowing the girl's age.

Counsel Anne Stevens applied for bail for the man who, she said, was a first offender, had some mental health problems and had sought help with the issues behind the offending.

He understood a prison sentence was a distinct possibility, Mrs Stevens said. But she submitted it was open to the court to consider a non-custodial sentence.

Judge Crosbie adjourned the bail application until the afternoon for further submissions from Mrs Stevens and from the Crown.

Mrs Stevens argued the difference in age between the parties, 31 and 15, was the main aggravating factor. It was not accepted there had been any grooming by the defendant and he himself was vulnerable.

He had taken responsibility for the offending, which had been of short duration. There was no ongoing contact between him and the girl and matters resulting in harm to her, as described by her parents, were not all a result of the defendant's offending, Mrs Stevens submitted.

But Crown counsel Richard Smith said the defendant was likely to receive a prison sentence in the range of 3 1/2 to 4 years, given the implied breach of trust and the age gap.

After considering the various matters raised by both sides, including the man's previous good character, his compliance with bail since his arrest and the personal issues raised in a psychotherapist's report, Judge Crosbie said, contrary to the defendant's argument, he believed an element of grooming could be inferred from a man of the defendant's age engaging in sexually explicit text messages with a 15-year-old girl then two incidents of sexual behaviour.

It was "very unlikely" the end point for sentence would be at or less than two years, the judge said, and he was not persuaded the man should be granted bail.