Judges in Den Bosch have sentenced 16 men and one woman who had sex with a 16-year-old girl to a symbolic one day in jail and between 120 and 180 hours of community service.

The clients all said they were not aware the girl, who was not apparently coerced into prostitution, was under age.

The court said that while sex with a minor is a crime, even when consensual, the punishment should reflect the seriousness of the offence. In this case, the girl both appeared and acted as if she was an adult and her clients had no reason to think she was a minor, the court said.

The three drivers who took the girl to hotels in Eindhoven and Limburg were also found guilty. One was jailed for six months because he ‘treated the girl with no respect’. The others were jailed for one day and given community service.

The case broke two years ago after detectives were tipped off about a sex advert. Detectives made an appointment and, when they arrived at the hotel, found the 16-year-old. Details of her clients were recovered from her mobile phone.

The case is the biggest of its kind in the Netherlands since 2015, when six men were convicted of having sex with a 16-year-old girl. Her pimp was jailed for two years but the clients were also jailed for a day.

The public prosecution department said in a reaction that the sentences were disappointing and that it would appeal.

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