A rising motorsport star has been granted a discharge without conviction by the "finest of margins" for sexual offending and assaulting a female.
In discharging Faine Kahia without conviction, Judge Tony Snell said "this was one of the most difficult decisions I have had to make in a long time".
Kahia, who is now 24, was found guilty by a jury of unlawful sexual connection with a minor and assaulting a female in 2014. He was sentenced today.
The aspiring Formula One racing driver from Taupo had sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend at a time when he was aged 17. The offence happened over a 10-month period about once a week until she was 16.
The assault charge related to Kahia tugging her arm with significant force at school in an attempt to drag her away at a time when his victim tried to end the relationship.
At the trial, Kahia faced two charges of sexual connection with a young person, three charges of indecent assault, three charges of sexual violation by rape and two charges of male assaults female.
He was cleared of all but one representative charge of sexual connection with a young person and one charge of male assaults female.
Judge Tony Snell reminded the court he was tasked with sentencing Kahia based purely on the charges Kahia was found guilty of.
Kahia's lawyer, Ron Mansfield, fought to have Kahia discharged without conviction based on the fact a conviction would ruin his career.
"Everyone thinks he has got what it takes to get to the top."
He said it was important for Māori youth to see that work and perseverance could make it on the international stage, despite not coming from a wealthy family.
He couldn't race while he was before the court and all funding and sponsorship was put on hold.
"This will be the end of his career before it's started and that would be a consequence way beyond this offending."
Judge Snell said he was concerned Kahia showed no remorse, and had done nothing to help himself in terms of getting counselling to deal with issues of boundaries in a relationship.
However, he agreed with Mansfield that a conviction would ruin his future prospects.
"I am going to grant the discharge and it is done by the finest of margins."
He ordered Kahia attend one-on-one counselling to deal with his actions.
Judge Snell said there was no doubt Kahia was a "significant high achiever".
"You are put forward and many people speak highly of you as a role model not only in motor racing but for young Maori men but for people in your school."
However, he said high profile sportspeople were still subject to the law like every other person in the community.
Kahia's former girlfriend read a victim impact statement to the court.
In it, she said she was sexually controlled, assaulted and mentally and emotionally abused by Kahia.
She said they began their relationship when she was 14 and he was 16. Within weeks of their relationship, he told her he had had sex before and was willing to wait until she was ready.
However, as time went on he continually asked if she was ready and his questioning turned to frustration and he said he wasn't going to wait forever.
On his 17th birthday on July 2, 2013, she had sex with him for the first time.
"At 22 years old (now), I know I didn't make that decision. He did."
She said she went from being a bubbly and outgoing girl who loved her hobbies to being withdrawn from friends.
As the relationship went on, she was being manipulated by Kahia, she said.
"If he lost a motorsport race, it was my fault regardless if I was there or not."
She said he would comment on her clothing and constantly check her phone's text messages despite not letting her see his.
She said she was always worried about what she said in case it "set him off" and he would often express to her that given he was older, he knew more.
"My personality started to weaken as I was being controlled by Faine every day."
She said she reached a point when she was "numb" and her emotions were shut off.
She described the "drawn out" court process as "exhausting" particularly questioning by his defence lawyer.
She said she was constantly afraid of seeing him at social occasions, so much so she chose not to go out.
She said she felt she missed out on a lot of things she could have experienced in her teen years as a result of his offending and went on to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety.
However, she said she was now a much stronger person and felt empowered by what she had been through and achieved by taking her stand against his offending.
"I am empowered to continue to tell my story ... I will never be anyone's puppet again."
She said she was lucky to have great support around her as something like this could "seriously ruin someone's life".