A boxer has escaped jail for a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl who became pregnant.
The decision - by a "fine margin", said Judge Geoff Rea in Napier District Court yesterday - came as 25-year-old Christopher Tolomanila Sio Talivaa was sentenced to nine months' home detention, 150 hours community work and supervision including a stipulation not to associate with any female aged under 16 years unless in the presence of an adult approved by a probation officer.
But the judge warned that a single breach would lead Talivaa straight back to court for the case to be reviewed, with "no question" he'd be off to prison.
The court had previously been told the pair started a relationship when he was 23 and she was 14. It continued after Talivaa was warned by her family and by police and she became pregnant in July last year.
The child was born in April, when the girl was aged 15, and yesterday defence counsel Roger Philip told Judge Rea the families helped support for the infant, with assistance from Talivaa.
Talivaa had previously pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual connection with the girl and was convicted, despite a letter from a primary sponsor of the Flaxmere Boxing Club and assertions by Philip that the defendant was a "role model" in the club and that a conviction would limit his chances of travelling in the sport.
Judge Rea described Talivaa as an "arrogant young man" who believed his "pugilistic abilities" could be used for getting his own way, and noted that Talivaa had been before the courts for "knocking the complainant about, and all sorts of things over the years".
The judge said it was only the support of the families that would keep Talivaa out of jail, but warned that any failure to meet the conditions set by the court meant the sentence would be reviewed and there would be "no question" Talivaa would be sent to jail.
"The families have got in behind you," Judge Rea said. "I'm hopeful the child will have a good future. That saves you from a term of imprisonment, which you probably richly deserve."