Two men who were threatened online after sexually abusing girls as teenagers, filming their abuse and sharing it with friends, have been granted permanent name suppression.
Both men appeared at the Auckland District Court on Friday where Judge John Bergseng sentenced them to intensive supervision for representative charges of sexual conduct with a young person under 16.
The sentence of 12 months supervision means they will have to complete a course – but only if their probation officer says they need to.
Initially, Judge Bergseng sentenced the men – now aged 26 – to home detention but he said he and “experienced counsel” missed the fact that home detention had not been an available sentence because both men were under 18 at the time of the offending.
On Monday, Judge Bergseng released his reasons for giving the men permanent name suppression, three months after making the order.
Judge Bergseng said at least one of the two survivors opposed name suppression, as did the Crown.
The Crown argued it was in the public interest to name the men and nothing in their application reached the threshold to replace open justice.
Lawyers for the pair said both men were 16 years old at the time of the offending and, had they been charged at the time, they would have been prosecuted in the Youth Court where name suppression is automatic.
In affidavits filed with the court, both men describe receiving threats online and one fled Auckland.
“I have lived my life with significant abuse, threats and actual violence,” one of the men wrote. However, he also acknowledged that some of the violence was due to a close family member being involved in drugs.
He told the court he lived in “constant fear that even just one person, out of hundreds of thousands of people interested in this case, will seek to take justice into their own hands and put my family at risk.”
Judge Bergseng said one of the men believed publicity would “permanently and irreparably” ruin his life.
“He does not see that he would be able to have a professional and respectable life without permanent name suppression.”
A psychological report said the man was neglected as a child.
“The dysfunction left him to be in a co-dependant relationship with his peers who were also struggling to find their way as they were all going through adolescence and as a result of this and the lack of boundaries were impulsive, used substances and made poor decisions.”
In delivering his reasons, Judge Bergseng said the case had attracted widespread media and threats of violence on social media coverage.
He said both men had accepted “responsibility” for their offending that took place when they were 16 years-old.
“It is clear they, like many young men, lacked maturity and had failed to understand the consequences of what they were doing.”
He said while the men had been branded as “rapists” they had never faced that charge. He said publication of their names now would “almost inevitably” lead to calls for vigilantism.
The pair were arrested in December 2020 in relation to offending between December 2012 and February 2013. The survivors have waited a decade for justice.
In a victim impact statement, read at their sentencing on Friday, one of the woman said she struggled to articulate the damage done to her.
“How do I put into words 10 years of flashbacks, terror, anxiety, panic attacks, self-doubt and the unrealised potential of my life?”
She said for the past decade she had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I feel as though evil goes unpunished and that society has discarded me.”
In August 2023, when the men were initially sentenced, another survivor spoke of being manipulated and coerced by the two men, who then shared the abuse with friends.
She went from living the life of a “normal teenaged girl” to spiralling with mental health problems, drugs and alcohol.
The agreed summary of facts was released to Stuff and shows the men abused two young teenagers on separate occasions in a converted garage sleepout.
The court document said a 14-year-old girl met one of the men at school. He was three years older than her.
He invited her to his friend’s converted garage. The group would drink alcohol before the teenage men sexually abused the girl.
Some of the episodes were recorded and shared with the abusers’ group of friends.
The young woman told police the abuse left her feeling “worthless”.
She suffered “significant emotional harm” and later turned to drugs. “She still suffers flashbacks or triggering moments and is presently on medication to assist,” the court documents said.
Another woman met the men when she was also 14.
She and some friends agreed to go to the garage, but once there she was abused by two of the men at the same time.
The court document recorded one of the men asked if he could perform a sex act on her. When she said “no”, he did it anyway.
The issue of consent was addressed in the court document.
“The defendants believed the girls were consenting at the time. However, looking back with the maturity and experience achieved because of their own maturity, they now realise that the girls, given their age, intoxication and the circumstances, can be seen as not being capable of providing informed consent to sexual conduct.”
The case dates back to 2013, when police initially conducted interviews.
The police said one of the young women was adamant she did not want to make a formal statement at the time. However, in 2020, she approached police to say she was now ready.
Detective Inspector John Sutton has previously said the decision was then made to lay an additional charge against two men, of sexual connection with a young person aged between 12-16.
He said a warrant for arrest would be sought for a third man who was overseas and would be arrested if he returned to New Zealand.
In total, 35 men were assessed as “persons of interest” in the case and five suspects were identified.
Police canvassed 110 girls as part of their investigation.
Of those, 25 girls declined to give statements but were believed to have been the victims of some form of sexual offending, Sutton said.
Seven girls made formal complaints to police.
Where to get help for sexual violence
Rape Crisis 0800 88 33 00, click link for local helplines.
Victim Support 0800 842 846, text 4334, webchat safetotalk.nz or email email@example.com.
The Harbour Online support and information for people affected by sexual abuse.
Women’s Refuge 0800 733 843 (females only)
Male Survivors Aotearoa Helplines across NZ, click to find out more (males only).
If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 111.
Need help? If you or someone you know is in a dangerous situation, click the Shielded icon at the bottom of this website to contact Women’s Refuge in a safe and anonymous way without it being traced in your browser history. If you’re in our app, visit the mobile website here to access Shielded.