A Co Antrim man who kissed a teenage pupil in a school where he was a student shadowing a teacher was placed under probation for two years today .
Michael Hagan was 20 and the girl was 16 when they met on four separate occasions and kissed in 2019.
As he sentenced Hagan on a single charge of sexual activity with a child, Judge Brian Sherrard said the crux of his offending was the breach of trust.
From Orchard Close in Portglenone, the 23-year-old admitted offending between January 30 and March 19, 2019.
The Crown said whilst at the school as a student shadowing a teacher, he embarked on an inappropriate relationship with a 16-year-old pupil which began when he contacted her on Snapchat.
Over the course of a few weeks, they met four times. Twice their meeting ended with a peck on the cheek whilst the other two resulted in a consensual kiss.
Hagan and the girl also exchanged messages, and when the school became aware of the issue in early 2019, Hagan initially denied any wrongdoing.
Police were alerted, Hagan was arrested and over the course of three interviews, he gave a 'no comment' response.
A defence barrister said Hagan had a previous clear criminal record and admitted the charge, which spared the teenager "the prospect of a trial”.
The barrister revealed that following his arrest, Hagan is no longer pursuing a career in teaching and currently undertaking an engineering apprenticeship.
He also spoke of Hagan's shame at his actions and regret at the harm he caused the girl.
The barrister added: "In his role shadowing a teacher that year, he knows he should not have embarked in this type of relationship with a pupil."
As he sentenced Hagan at Belfast Crown Court, Judge Sherrard told the defendant - who appeared via a videolink with his solicitor's office - "I have no doubt you knew what you were doing was wrong and inappropriate."
Citing the breach of trust element as "the crux of your offending", the judge said that whilst the behaviour did not go beyond consensual kissing, "this child should not have been put in this position”.
Turning to the teenager, Judge Sherrard said that after reading a statement she made, it was clear what happened has had a significant impact on her.
Hagan was made the subject of a two-year probation order and was also placed on the sex offenders register for five years.
Saying he didn't expect to see Hagan before the courts again, Judge Sherrard did issue a warning that any breach of probation or reoffending would result in "being brought back and sentenced afresh”.