UPDATED: 5.30PM Police have responded to criticism of their investigation into five young Opotiki men who had sex with underage girls.
The five men today pleaded guilty and have been discharged without conviction.
LISTEN ABOVE: Criminal barrister Kelly Ellis talks to Larry Williams about the case and the law surrounding it
The men were 17 and 18 at the time, and sex with the 14 and 15-year-olds was consensual.
One of the girls read out an impact statement saying she did not want to be a victim - that the sex had been consensual - they were in a relationship at the time and police had gone against her wishes in taking the prosecution.
In another statement, one of the girl's mothers said the impact of the police investigation had been more harmful to her daughter than the sexual activity.
Judge Louis Bidois today said convicting them would be a punishment disproportionate to the offending.
He described them as young, first-time offenders and said all accepted responsibility and all had completed community work.
He continued name suppression for the men and the victims, saying “they had suffered enough”.
Detective Inspector Mark Loper said the inquiry team brought the matter to a successful conclusion despite considerable scrutiny.
He said the local community has been generally supportive and patient.