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A drunken party turned into a nightmare for a Napier teenager, writes GLEN PRENTICE of Hawke's Bay Today.
October 16 was the perfect night for a party.
Kent Burns, the popular deputy head boy of Taradale High School, was ready to celebrate turning 18.
Teachers were on strike the next day and James McBride was more than happy to take advantage of his parents being overseas and provide a venue.
Everyone could chip in to get a keg of beer and get smashed.
Word got round Taradale High School that afternoon, and at least 30 seventh-formers, almost all of them male, turned up at McBride's home to give Burns an 18th birthday he wouldn't forget.
Among the 30 to attend were some of the school's most popular and respected students - who would be forced to use those qualities in their defence later in court when charged with sexually violating a friend with a broomstick.
There was Mark Hagen, the school's head boy. Elected to the top job, he was a natural sportsman who represented the school in rugby, cricket, golf and outdoor pursuits. The solidly built forward was in the school choir, barbershop harmony group and played in other school bands. He was highly thought of by staff at the school.
Gabriel Williams' game was hockey. He was a Hawkes Bay representative and had been selected to play for New Zealand in his age group. He sang in the school choir and enjoyed cultural activities. He was a quiet character, a nice guy who lacked a bit of confidence, a follower, not a leader.
Rewi Gemmell excelled at sport and Maori studies. He would be described in court as a lad who never raised a finger against anyone, whose natural ability earned him the respect of everyone he played against.
Andrew Castles was a promising sportsman who was well liked and respected at school, though at times a little loud and boisterous. A Christian, he never drank alcohol or took drugs.
Anthony Lloyd and Daniel Cutbill were house captains, both good average students, both seen as honest and sensible.
And Kent Burns, the birthday boy. He loved the challenge of being deputy head boy and head of drama. He was hardworking and wanted to study architecture.
Another partygoer was a late starter, arriving only after an invitation from Castles, taking with him a six-pack of beer.
Within hours half of each of his eyebrows would be shaved off, an apparently common prank that was played on anyone who drank too much at parties
Worse was to come. Less than 12 hours later he would tell police of an ordeal that happened just hours after he went to bed at the party. Six months later he was telling a jury.
"I felt my shorts and boxer shorts being pulled down. I was trying to pull them back up ... [and heard voices] saying 'Hold him down, hold him down, keep him still, don't move', and then I smelt the deep heat ointment, still struggling I tried to get away."
What he didn't know at the time was that it was their second attempt. An inconvenient belt had halted their progress the first time. Their second effort was a success, and they sexually violated the youth with a broomstick that had Vicks VapoRub on the end. He was left struggling to walk, and a long way from home.
All seven would later tell police and a jury that they had intended only to playing a joke.
They would say that the prank was never meant to go that far, but all said enough to convince police there was a strong case for charging them with sexual violation.
Detective Senior Sergeant Bill Gregory, of Napier, a member of the prosecuting team, concedes the case was unusual and says police constantly consulted the crown solicitor and the Crown Law Office.
Castles, who inserted the broom, would later declare his guilt, admitting charges of attempted sexual violation and sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection.
He got a 2 1/2-year jail sentence and could have got more had he not agreed to give evidence against his mates. He never once looked at his former friends when he took the stand in court to say how everyone knew what he was up to that night.
The six youths sat like statues in court as evidence against them mounted. Gone were the smiles and joking boyish behaviour of earlier court appearances.
After this week being convicted of sexual violation, they all now face jail terms, and the prospect that Castles - who confessed to everything, who held the broom, who may well have taken advantage of their drunken state and coaxed them into doing what they did - will probably walk free before them.
On May 24, they will appear before Justice Gendall knowing they will be unlikely to walk from the courthouse with their parents at their side as they did this week.
The complainant's father doesn't believe any of the six are truly sorry for what they did to his son.
They told police they were immediately shocked at what had happened and would have stopped it if they possibly could have. The complainant's father doesn't buy it.
He says it happened so late at night, 3am, only because no one who might have had the guts to stop it would still have been at the party.
He says members of his family could not bear to hear some of the statements the jury were being asked to believe. They are thankful the jury didn't.
The attack robbed his son of his last boyhood summer, he says. He spent much of it alone, scared to venture out in case he ran into his attackers.
Next year he will begin studying to become a paramedic, and then maybe a doctor. If there's one good thing to come from the ordeal, he says, it is that the public is now more aware of bullying.