A young Auckland solo mum who was jailed for sexually exploiting a 14-year-old girl has lost a Court of Appeal challenge over her sentence.
Monika Rachael Kelly, 21, was sentenced last year by Justice Mathew Downs to two-and-a-half years' imprisonment.
Her parents were in the courtroom, along with other members of her family, as an emotional Kelly was sent behind bars.
She had earlier pleaded guilty to dealing in people under 18 for sexual exploitation after she was caught by police operating an illegitimate prostitution service using the teen girl for cash.
It was this sentence and the reasons why which Kelly's lawyer, Ron Mansfield, appealed in the Court of Appeal during February in a bid for house arrest.
The prominent criminal defence lawyer argued the case brought a sentencing predicament which cried out for home detention as the appropriate solution.
He emphasised Kelly's youth, her difficult background, her responsibilities for her pre-school son, and her prospects for rehabilitation, which he argued would be severely dented by serving a sentence of imprisonment.
Mansfield also said the court ought to stand back and reflect on the overall outcome for Kelly and re-emphasised the prospect of future harm from her serving a prison sentence.
The substantially enhanced prospects for rehabilitation were also highlighted by Mansfield should Kelly be sentenced instead to a term of home detention.
The 14-year-old had run away from home and her life at the time was described at sentencing as "messy" by Justice Downs.
After meeting via a mutual friend she lived with Kelly for six weeks, but was taken out of Kelly's care for a period due to concerns by Oranga Tamariki—Ministry for Children, the court heard.
Kelly, who was then 19, made a "profile" for the victim using an alias for the girl and amended her date of birth to purport her to be 18 or 19.
The 14-year-old was then exploited four times this way at central Auckland hotels with Kelly receiving payments of up to $350.
Justice Downs told Kelly: "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."
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."
The Court of Appeal judges, Justices Christine French, Robert Dobson and Timothy Brewer said Kelly's sentencing was "not an easy exercise".
"But it was one thoughtfully constructed where we have not found that any error occurred," their decision reads.
"The final sentence represented total reductions from the starting point of some 39 per cent."
The three judges said the "need for deterrence and denunciation of such offending" prevented a re-evaluation of the sentence which any greater weight to Kelly's rehabilitation.
The victim said in a victim impact statement that Kelly "took her in during a challenging time in her life and [was] exploiting her".
The Herald has revealed several other cases involving teenagers being exploited for sexual services this year, including one involving the "most despised woman in New Zealand".
In April last year, the Herald reported the case of Kasmeer Lata - just the third conviction for slave trading in the country's legal history.
She 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 then 15-year-old to men about 1000 times over a two-year period.
On appeal by the Crown last December, Lata's sentence was increased to 10 years and three months' imprisonment.
When sentencing Kelly, Justice Downs said: "In reality it's difficult to imagine a worse case than Lata."
How to get help
If you're in danger now:
• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours of friends to ring for you.
• Run outside and head for where there are other people.
• Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you.
• If you are being abused, remember it's not your fault. Violence is never okay.
Where to go for help or more information:
• NZ Police
• The Harbour, for those affected by harmful sexual behaviour
• Help Auckland 24/7 helpline 09 623 1700
• Rape Prevention Education
• Wellington Help 24/7 crisisline 04 801 6655, push 0
• Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse
• Women's Refuge: Free national crisis line operates 24/7 - 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843 www.womensrefuge.org.nz
• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633 www.2shine.org.nz
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and Middle Eastern women and their children. Crisis line 24/7 0800 742 584
• White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men's violence towards women, focusing this year on sexual violence and the issue of consent. www.whiteribbon.org.nz