Police have arrested five men as part of an ongoing investigation into sexual allegations in Opotiki.
The men, aged between 17 and 18, have been charged with unlawful sexual conduct with a young person under 16, and will appear in the Opotiki District Court on December 3.
Five teenagers have been charged in relation to a sexual assault in the Bay of Plenty. File photo.
While the men have links to Opotiki College, Detective Inspector Mark Loper says there is no information to suggest the alleged offending occurred at the school, or that any school staff were involved.
“This has been a very thorough and complex inquiry, and would like to acknowledge the support of the local community and thank them for their patience as we have worked methodically through the process to get us to this point,” says Mark.
“While we have made arrests today, there is still a long way to go in the inquiry, and we will be continuing to support those who have come forward and their families as we work through the judicial process.
“We are also mindful that there has been significant media interest in this investigation.
"But, as we have said all along, our priority has been the well being of the young people who have raised these concerns with us, and we again appeal to the media to exercise discretion and please respect their privacy, while considering the additional stress that this attention has placed on them and their families.”
Police launched an investigation in the allegations in September and spoke with a number of students and their families.
At the time, Mark said their "priority is the well-being of the young people who have provided the information and we have spoken to their families about how we will progress from here".
“We are also aware that some media have been making direct approaches to students and alleged victims’ families, but we ask that they please respect their privacy and consider the additional stress that this may be placing upon them as we work to guide them through this process, which is already challenging enough."
Mark explains that the nature of the investigation means officers have to work “carefully and methodically”.
He asks for the community patience as they work through enquiries.
People with information that might help the investigation, or who may be a potential victim, are asked to contact police.
Information can be passed onto Mark via 07 348 0099.
Alternatively, information can be left anonymously via the Crimestoppers 0800 555 111 line.