Solo mum jailed for sexually exploiting 14-year-old

Monika Kelly, pictured today during her sentencing in the High Court at Auckland. Photo: NZME
Monika Kelly, pictured today during her sentencing in the High Court at Auckland. Photo: NZME
A young solo mother has been jailed for sexually exploiting a 14-year-old girl, one of several such cases to be heard in New Zealand's courts this year.

Monika Rachael Kelly, 21, earlier admitted to dealing in people under 18 for sexual exploitation.

An emotional Kelly was sentenced this morning in the High Court at Auckland by Justice Mathew Downs to two and a half years' imprisonment.

Her parents were in the courtroom, along with other members of her family.

Kelly, then 19, was operating an illegitimate prostitution service using a 14-year-old girl, court documents obtained by the Herald show.

The court heard today Kelly had met the teen through a mutual friend and then asked her if she would be a prostitute for her.

The teen lived with Kelly for six weeks but was taken out of Kelly's care for a period because of concerns by Oranga Tamariki—Ministry for Children, the court heard.

The teen had run away from home and her life at the time was described as "messy", Justice Downs said.

The victim, now 16, was not in court today but said in her victim impact statement Kelly "took her in during a challenging time in her life and [was] exploiting her".

She said she felt trapped and was constantly placed in situations of extreme discomfort.

Her peers at school, who are aware of what happened, now treat her differently, the court heard.

She also struggles to trust people and cannot be alone in a room with a man.

Justice Downs said Kelly "facilitated the victim's continued exploitation".

"The victim was vulnerable, you knew that, you knew that the victim was young. To be more specific, you knew she was 14 for most of your offending."

An emotional Monika Kelly was supported today in court by her family. Photo: NZME
An emotional Monika Kelly was supported today in court by her family. Photo: NZME
After her arrest, Kelly also told a clinical psychologist she thought the victim was over 16 but under 18.

"I am sure you knew her real age after the first incident," Justice Downs said.

"I am not persuaded you are genuinely remorseful."

Crown prosecutor Ben Finn said there was a "degree of manipulation" and Kelly's offending was "not impulsive" but motivated by financial pressures.

Finn accepted Kelly never coerced or threatened the teen but the 14-year-old was reluctant to participate on occasions.

A prison sentence was sought by the Crown, Finn said.

Kelly's lawyer Ron Mansfield strongly sought a period of home detention.

However, Justice Downs told Kelly even if he had reached an end sentence of less than two years - thus allowing home detention - he would have still sent her to prison.

Kelly was seeking men on a smartphone using an application called "seeking arrangements", which was similar to a dating website, to operate the prostitution service.

Kelly made a profile for the teenage victim using an alias for the girl and amended her date of birth to be 18 or 19 years old.

The teen was exploited four times in this way at central Auckland hotels with Kelly receiving payments of up to $350.

A police criminal investigation began in mid-July last year.

After Kelly learned of police involvement she arranged for her associates who had witnessed the offending to meet.

She collectively advised at least two of them to tell police they had no knowledge of the circumstances of the offending and provided them with a prompt of what to say.

When spoken to by police, Kelly admitted to driving the teen to the clients and receiving payment, however, she denied making the arrangements and said she was only trying to help her victim out.

The New Zealand Herald  has also revealed several other similar cases of teenagers being exploited for sexual services this year.

Police were alerted to a couple pimping out a 15-year-old after the girl's mother discovered on social media her daughter had been flown from Christchurch to work in central Auckland brothels.

Taton Sebastian Smith, 35, and Tahleicia Elizabeth Seil, 25, were sentenced in September for assisting someone under 18 to provide sexual services.

Smith was jailed for two years and 10 months, while Seil will serve nine months' home detention after they had earlier pleaded guilty.

Both were also sentenced for profiting from the activity, and Smith for having sex with a person aged 12 to 16.

In April the Herald revealed just the third conviction for slave trading in the country's legal history.

Kasmeer Lata was jailed for six years and 11 months for keeping her daughter as a sex slave, turning her Auckland home into a brothel, and selling the 15-year-old to men some 1000 times over a two-year period.

Lata was described as the "most despised woman in New Zealand".

Justice Matthew Muir said at Lata's sentencing: "New Zealand's courts will not [tolerate] the prostitution of children."

Today Justice Downs said: "In reality it's difficult to imagine a worse case than Lata."

Her partner, Avneensh Sehgal, who attempted to flee to India, was also imprisoned.

And in August a Lower Hutt woman was jailed for planning to sexually exploit her 10-year-old granddaughter to sex criminal Andrew Davie.

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