A man accused of engaging in non-consensual sex with his then-16-year-old neighbour three times during a weekend away in 1994 has been found not guilty of rape, but guilty of having sex with a minor.
The 51-year-old Northern Tasmanian man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was found not guilty on three counts of rape in the Launceston Supreme Court on Wednesday.
He was also found not guilty on one count of perverting the course of justice.
It took the jury about three-and-a-half hours to reach the verdict, unanimously agreeing the man was guilty of sexual intercourse with a young person.
He was sentenced to 15 months' jail, wholly suspended for two years.
In other news:
During the three-day trial, the plaintiff told the court she was invited to spend a weekend at the family's new house, visiting in December 1994.
The man did not deny having sexual intercourse with the girl three times over the course of the weekend, but told the court it was not forced.
He also said he thought the age of consent was 16, and that the first time he had sex with the girl was two weeks after her 16th birthday.
The man confessed the acts to his wife, who was pregnant with their third child, shortly after the weekend away.
During sentencing submissions, defence lawyer Greg Richardson said his client's understanding of the age of consent was the single biggest mitigating factor in the case.
Mr Richardson argued his client acted on the basis of a mistake of law.
"It's not uncommon for people to think 16 is the age of consent," he said.
In handing down his comments of passing sentence, Justice Brett said the man was well aware of the girl's age, having known her in the year's prior to committing the crime.
Justice Brett said there was some evidence to support the man's claims that he did not know the age of consent was 17, but that he relied on his own impression and understanding of the law - "which was, of course, inaccurate".
In considering the 11 year age gap between the man and the then-16-year-old, Justice Brett said the modest difference distinguished the crime from others more serious.