A young Auckland solo mum who was jailed for sexually exploiting a 14-year-old girl has lost a Court of Appeal challenge over her sentence.
Monika Rachael Kelly, 21, was sentenced last year by Justice Mathew Downs to two-and-a-half years' imprisonment.
Her parents were in the courtroom, along with other members of her family, as an emotional Kelly was sent behind bars.
She had earlier pleaded guilty to dealing in people under 18 for sexual exploitation after she was caught by police operating an illegitimate prostitution service using the teen girl for cash.
However, at sentencing Justice Downs told Kelly even if he had reached an end sentence of less than two years - thus allowing home detention - he would still have sent her to prison.
It was this sentence and the reasons why which Kelly's lawyer, Ron Mansfield, appealed in the Court of Appeal during February in a bid for house arrest.
The prominent criminal defence lawyer argued the case brought a sentencing predicament which cried out for home detention as the appropriate solution.
He emphasised Kelly's youth, her difficult background, her responsibilities for her pre-school son, and her prospects for rehabilitation, which he argued would be severely dented by serving a sentence of imprisonment.
Mansfield also said the court ought to stand back and reflect on the overall outcome for Kelly and re-emphasised the prospect of future harm from her serving a prison sentence.
The substantially enhanced prospects for rehabilitation were also highlighted by Mansfield should Kelly be sentenced instead to a term of home detention.
The 14-year-old had run away from home and her life at the time was described at sentencing as "messy" by Justice Downs.
After meeting via a mutual friend she lived with Kelly for six weeks, but was taken out of Kelly's care for a period due to concerns by Oranga Tamariki—Ministry for Children, the court heard.
Kelly, who was then 19, made an online "profile" for the victim using an alias for the girl and amended her date of birth to purport her to be 18 or 19.
The 14-year-old was then exploited four times this way at central Auckland hotels with Kelly receiving payments of up to $350.
Justice Downs told Kelly: "The victim was vulnerable, you knew that, you knew that the victim was young. To be more specific, you knew she was 14 for most of your offending."
After her arrest, Kelly also told a clinical psychologist she thought the victim was over 16 but under 18.
"I am sure you knew her real age after the first incident," Justice Downs said.
"I am not persuaded you are genuinely remorseful."
The Court of Appeal judges, Justices Christine French, Robert Dobson and Timothy Brewer said Kelly's sentencing was "not an easy exercise".
"But it was one thoughtfully constructed where we have not found that any error occurred," their decision reads.
"The final sentence represented total reductions from the starting point of some 39 per cent."
The three judges said the "need for deterrence and denunciation of such offending" prevented a re-evaluation of the sentence with any greater weight given to Kelly's rehabilitation.
The victim said in a victim impact statement that Kelly "took her in during a challenging time in her life and [was] exploiting her".
The Herald has revealed several other cases involving teenagers being exploited for sexual services this year, including one involving the "most despised woman in New Zealand".
In April last year, the Herald reported the case of Kasmeer Lata - just the third conviction for slave trading in the country's legal history.
She was jailed for six years and 11 months for keeping her daughter as a sex slave, turning her Auckland home into a brothel, and selling the then 15-year-old to men about 1000 times over a two-year period.
On appeal by the Crown last December, Lata's sentence was increased to 10 years and three months' imprisonment.
When sentencing Kelly, Justice Downs said: "In reality it's difficult to imagine a worse case than Lata."