Belfast Telegraph

Grooming victim in warning after being targeted on website at age 14

By Ashleigh McDonald

A young woman has warned of the potential dangers of meeting people online after a man she believed groomed her on a bereavement website avoided a prison sentence.

The 21-year old was speaking after Jonathan Fawcett, who twice travelled from England to Northern Ireland to have sex when she was 15 - was placed on probation for three years.

The pair, who had both lost a loved one, met on a suicide support website in 2008 when the woman was 14.

In 2009, Fawcett, under the name Fallen Angel Jon, sent her a private message inviting her to a chatroom. Shortly after, their messages became sexual.

When contact between the two started, Fawcett was 19 and aware of the girl's age. Despite that, he travelled from his home in Lichfield and booked into a Co Antrim B&B in May 2009, and again in July that year. On both occasions, he engaged in sexual activity with the girl.

Fawcett, who has autism and is now 26, admitted 18 counts of sexual assault and was given three years' probation after a hearing at Belfast Crown Court.

Citing the case as "exceptional", Judge Gordon Kerr said reports compiled on Fawcett suggested he would present a suicide risk if jailed.

Speaking after the defendant was placed on probation, the woman said: "That's not enough for what he did to me. He has ruined these last seven years of my life and I now suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.

"I also feel the fact he has autism was used as an excuse. They made such a big deal of it in court, but he was able to book flights on his own, book accommodation on his own and travel from England on his own.

"He groomed me. He did what he did to me over those two weekends and he didn't spend a day in prison for it.

"After the first time he came over, I felt he manipulated me into meeting him again because he threatened to tell my family."

She also said she hoped what happened to her would act as a warning to others. "You need to be really careful about who you talk to and who you can trust online," the woman added. "You really don't know who they really are, so be very careful."

During a previous hearing, Crown prosecutor Kate McKay said Fawcett "tapped into the girl's emotional fragility".

On both of the weekends he came over from England, the pair engaged in sexual acts including intercourse. Mrs McKay told the court that afterwards the girl "felt like she had been treated like a sexual object".

When Fawcett was questioned by police in 2013, he admitted he knew the girl was 14 when they met, claimed they were in a relationship and admitted to sexual contact. He also admitted filming her, but said he had deleted the clip.

Mrs McKay said it was the Crown's case that despite pleading guilty, Fawcett had tried to minimise his culpability.

Defence barrister Sean Devine said: "This is a case where the defendant had a sexual relationship with a 15-year old girl when he was 19 after they met on the internet and were in contact for over a year."

Mr Devine added that Fawcett's autism contributed to his lack of social awareness and said he lived a "reclusive and socially isolated life" in England.

He spoke of Fawcett's difficult childhood, which included a "family beset with problems", bullying and a girlfriend who committed suicide.

The barrister also told Judge Kerr there had "been no recurrence" of criminal behaviour since the offences.

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