An Illawarra man has told a court he "didn't understand the age of consent" until after he was charged with a string of child rape offences.
The 21-year-old, who cannot be named due to a non-publication order, made these comments at Wollongong District Court last week.
The man took to the witness stand where he confirmed guilty pleas to 13 counts of sexual intercourse with a child aged between 14 and 16 - stemming from 2021 when he was aged 19, and the victim was aged 14 and 15.
He told the court that he now understands the age of consent since being charged.
"As I've gotten older and understood the age of consent ... I can see what I did was wrong," the man said. "I didn't know how serious it was at the time."
The court heard the man and the girl formed a "relationship" after they first communicated online.
The Crown pointed out the pair had a four-year and eight-month age gap, and asked the man whether the age of consent had crossed his mind seeing as the girl was still in high school and he wasn't.
The man responded "it came into play slightly, but when two people love each other so much you just try to make it work" adding that he believed the pair were in a "normal relationship".
"If my actions have affected her in any sort of negative way I would like to apologise," he said.
However the Crown indicated he was aware his actions were illegal, given he told the girl not to tell anybody about the intercourse.
The court heard a custodial sentence was likely due to the number of charges.
The man will be sentenced in two weeks, with bail to continue until then.
Read more Illawarra court and crime stories here.
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