1 Dec 2015

Five teenagers charged with sex offences

5:58 pm on 1 December 2015

Opotiki College is not talking after the arrest of five young men charged with sexual offending against underage girls.

The teenagers, who are aged 17 and 18, are charged with unlawful sexual conduct with a young person under 16 years or age.

Detective Inspector Mark Loper told RNZ News the case involved six girls under the age of 16, who are college students.

He said some of the young men who had been charged also attended the school and others had left it.

Optiki College board of trustees chair Fred Cookson said in a statement the school had been co-operating with the police inquiry, and its priority was to make sure students could continue their education without undue stress.

The school would not be making further comment while the matter was before the court, he said.

Police said the alleged offending happened outside the school.

In September, police urged any potential victims to contact them as they investigated allegations of sexual offences. Mr Loper said today six complainants had come forward.

He said there was still a long way to go in the inquiry, and police would keep supporting those who had come forward.

Patrick Walsh past president of the Principals Association met police recently after calling publicly for boys accused of sexual offending to be held to account.

He said he was satisfied that was now happening and that the Opotiki girls who came forward would get the support they needed.

Mr Walsh said he thought police, Ministry of Education and schools had learned a lot from previous cases, and now had the resources and policies in to help people at such times.

The five teenagers who have been charged will appear in the Opotiki District Court on Thursday.