The 54-year-old admitted having sex with a 15-year-old and paying for her sexual services. (File photo)
A Kaitaia businessman’s sentence to 12 months’ home detention as part of an alleged Northland underage sex trafficking case has been called “a joke”.
Marcus Barker, 55, admitted unlawful sexual connection with a 15-year-old, receiving sexual services from her and arranging for her to supply sexual services.
He faced a maximum of 10 years in prison.
At Kaikohe District Court on Friday, Judge Deidre Orchard said Barker deserved a discount for his early guilty plea, police co-operation, lack of prior convictions and genuine good character.
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“This is serious offending and serious offending, particularly against the vulnerable – and this young girl was vulnerable – needs to be punished, but I am extremely impressed by the pre-sentence report.”
Judge Orchard said she was impressed with the way Barker was an upstanding citizen in Kaitaia and had single-handedly raised his son from a young age.
“You have devoted yourself to your boy and you have done an excellent job in bringing him up,” the judge told Barker.
Judge Orchard also said Barker deserved to be sentenced to home detention, rather than prison, so he could continue his sole-trade cleaning business and therefore not lose his house.
Barker was also ordered to pay the victim $1000 in reparation.
Judge Orchard asked for more information before deciding if Barker should be listed on the sex offenders’ register, as she considered him a low risk of reoffending.
But Mike Shaw, a Kaikohe spokesman for community group Stop Demand, said the sentence was very disappointing for what he described as child rape.
“It’s rape because a 15-year-old can’t consent. He’s been raping a child,” Shaw said.
“Home detention is joke. We’ve got to start treating the sexual violation of our kids as serious crimes.”
Shaw said Stop Demand was outspoken in its condemnation of sexual violence against children, and worked to reduce demand for sexual exploitation.
The court heard Barker responded to an online ad seeking an “older gent to have sex” with a girlfriend.
When he asked how old the 15-year-old was, he was told she was “just under” but he agreed to have sex with her for $150.
Barker also tried to arrange to have sex with the teenager a second time.
Judge Orchard said the sentence should not set a precedent, as Barker was the first of five men arrested to be sentenced in the alleged underage sex trafficking ring.
Owen Sigley, 66, and Auckland pastor Michael Weitenberg have also admitted receiving sexual services from the 15-year-old, and are due to be sentenced next month.
A 35-year-old Paihia man is facing a total of 20 charges, including sexual violation of a 14-year-old and 15-year-old.
A fifth man, 37-year-old Calvin Fairburn, denies sexual connection with a 15-year-old and receiving sexual services from her.