A judge has sent a 17-year-old girl to a restorative justice conference before deciding if she should be punished for having sex with a 12-year-old boy.

In Napier District Court, Judge Tony Adeane observed the offence of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, instigated by the boy, happened on the girl's 17th birthday, and had it been a day earlier she would not have been in the court.

The girl had admitted the charge and was to have been sentenced on Friday, but the judge intervened as the defence counsel and Crown prosecutor were about to speak, and said it was a "most unusual" case and a restorative justice process should take place before it went any further.

He was concerned about family rifts which appeared to have occurred as a result of the incident and the charge, and believed there needed to be some "healing".

The girl, who has continued name suppression, was remanded to appear again on December 10.