The prosecutor in the Labour Party summer camp trial says the Crown does not accept there was no sexual offending, despite taking a downgraded plea deal to resolve the case.
But the accused's lawyer says her client "is not a sexual offender and appropriately the Crown have now recognised that".
The dispute between the two lawyers comes after a 21-year-old man today pleaded guilty to two amended charges of assault under the Summary Offences Act 1981.
He had been on trial this week in the Auckland District Court over multiple allegations of indecent assault which stemmed from the Labour Party summer camp in 2018 near Waihi.
The accused began the trial facing five counts of indecent assault, which related to four people - two men and two women.
After discussions between the prosecutors and accused's defence team during the past 24 hours, the charges involving the two women were dismissed, while the sexual charges against the two men were amended to assault.
But, despite the plea deal, prosecutor David Johnstone wished to outline the Crown's position in an email to the Herald and other journalists who covered the trial.
It was in response to an earlier media statement by the accused's lawyer Emma Priest.
She said the Crown had "quite properly withdrawn the allegations of sexual offending against my client".
"He has pleaded guilty to two minor assaults which he's always been prepared to take responsibility for. As I have said from the outset, my client is not a sexual offender and appropriately the Crown have now recognised that," Priest said.
Johnstone, however, hit back.
"It is not correct to say that the Crown accepts there was no sexual offending," he said.
The partner at the law firm Meredith Connell, which holds the prosecution warrant for Auckland, added "the correct position" was that the Crown "did not consider it necessary in the public interest for the jury to resolve the point".
He said the defendant's plea offer came during the evidence of the second male complainant.
"It necessarily involved the defendant recognising that the touching of the two males did happen largely in the way the Crown alleged, but disputing that the defendant knew either that touching was indecent or of the circumstances that made it indecent," Johnstone said.
"And it necessarily involved the Crown accepting that if guilty pleas were entered to assaults on the two males, there was insufficient public interest in continuing the prosecution. No more than that."
After the offer was on the table to enter guilty pleas to assault charges, Johnstone said the Crown reassessed the public interest in continuing the trial.
"This reassessment needed to take account of the uncertainties and costs inherent in the jury process, the fact of the defendant acknowledging the intentional non-consensual touching of the males, and the moderate level of the alleged offending as a whole.
"Having undertaken that reassessment, the Crown decision was to accept the offer."
In a second statement to the Herald, Priest said she reiterated her earlier comments "that the Crown have properly withdrawn the allegations of indecent assault".
"The Crown's decision to withdraw the charges makes it improper to assert that he is guilty of something they have chosen not to attempt to prove by completing the trial," she said.
"By making the statement the Crown has deprived him of the opportunity to defend the allegations. Instead the Crown has chosen to try him in the court of public opinion which is unfair given they chose not to allow the only legitimate fact finder, the jury, to make the decision."
Priest said she could not comment on details of any plea discussions, which she claimed were privileged under the Evidence Act 2006 and are unable to be reported in the press.
"The Crown ought to have recognised [that] when they elected to speak to the media," she said.
Priest said in her first statement her client and his legal team were "grateful that what happened that night has been seen for what it really was: drunken antics at a party".
"My client is a young man who got caught up in a political storm and the pressure has been enormous. He is looking forward to putting this all behind him and getting back to his studies."
After being arrested in June 2018 the defendant was initially charged with six counts of indecent assault, however, some of the allegations were dropped in September last year.
At trial he was accused of having grabbed and squeezed a man's testicles, touched another man's genitals twice, kissed a woman on her neck and face and groped a second woman's breast and bottom.
Priest said she would be seeking a discharge without conviction for the two assault charges and permanent name suppression for her client.
An interim order suppressing his name will continue until final disposition of the case in November.