Belfast Telegraph

Church youth group leader jailed for sex with girl of 15

A church youth group leader who twice had sex with a 15-year-old girl has been jailed for three and a half years.

Ordering that 23-year-old Jamie McKeag serve 18 months in jail to be followed by two years on licence, Belfast Crown Court Judge Gemma Loughran also banned him from working with children and ordered that he remain on the police sex offenders register for the rest of his life.

Judge Loughran told McKeag it was her duty to “signal society's abhorrence of sexual offences against children and to make patently clear that those who exploit children for their own sexual gratification must realise that they will face considerable periods of prison”.

McKeag, from Wedderburn Gardens in Belfast, had pleaded guilty to four offences of sexual activity with a child involving penetration over a two-month period on dates between January 1 and March 1 last year.

Prosecution lawyer Amanda Brady told the court McKeag met the teenage schoolgirl through a church group and that their relationship developed through text messaging and internet chatting.

She said that McKeag, who confessed that he thought the girl was “attractive and more mature than her years”, knew what age she was but that he still had sex with her twice and also performed sex acts with her when they met on three occasions.

Arrested and interviewed, McKeag made full confessions to police and later pleaded guilty to the charges, “sparing her from the ordeal of having to give evidence”.

Ms Brady submitted that while his guilty plea was a mitigating factor, it was an aggravating feature that “there's a flavour to the case of a breach of trust” because he had abused his position with the church “in entering this sexual relationship”.

There had also been, added the lawyer, a significant negative impact on the teenager and her wider family.

Defence lawyer Michael McComb said McKeag “fully accepts that he did wrong,” telling the court the case was “an absolute tragedy for everybody”.

He said McKeag, a former captain of Friends rugby team who had been studying for a Diploma in Theology when he was arrested, “could have had so much to offer people and that has all been lost to him, all through his own fault”.

In jailing McKeag, Judge Loughran said the legislation was in place to protect “vulnerable and immature people” who may not wish to protect themselves or put themselves in vulnerable positions “as your victim did”.

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