Belfast Telegraph

Armagh man jailed for three months after attempting to pay for sex from woman at petrol station

The Armagh man who became the first person to be convicted under sexual services legislation in Northern Ireland has been jailed, after losing his appeal.

James Maloney (24) of Drumarg Villas denied attempting to pay for sexual services following an early morning encounter at a filling station, which was captured on CCTV, but was convicted and jailed for three months.

He appealed at Dungannon County Court but the conviction was upheld after a three-day hearing last October, and sentencing adjourned for reports.

The landmark case was first heard at Dungannon Magistrates Court in July by District Judge John Meehan, who described it as “abhorrent, predatory sexualised stalking of a woman, with the offer of money to satisfy his egotism.”

Noting it as the first prosecution of its, the judge said, “This as a man who deliberately targeted an isolated woman in a predatory fashion, by virtue of the fact she was a woman.”

Maloney was sentenced to three months imprisonment and ordered to pay £500 compensation.

Defence lawyers launched an appeal of both conviction and sentence, heard by Judge Stephen Fowler QC.

The victim was required to again undergo intensive cross-examination by Maloney’s lawyer, and due to extreme fear of the defendant, appeared via video-link.

She was working at a Dungannon petrol station at 6.20am on 28 August 2016, carrying out her usual duties, when a car approached and Maloney spoke out the passenger window.

He showed a roll of money, and she thought he wanted something from the shop, but instead gestured to his genital area with his hand, then repeated this at his mouth, which the court accepted as “an unambiguous sexual gesture”.

The car drove off, returning five minutes later with Maloney repeating the gestures. On this occasion, the victim spotted a colleague and asked for help, and Maloney again drove away.

He returned again, and although he didn’t approach, stared directly at the victim, frightening her.

Police attended and seized CCTV footage, identifying Maloney by his car registration. Officers spoke with his solicitor pointing out he would be required to attend for interview.

But Maloney, through his solicitor said, “He would not be attending as he didn’t see the point.”

When eventually interviewed, he remained silent, a position he retained at both contest and appeal.

He also refused to take part in an identification procedure, but this was carried out covertly and the victim successfully picked him out.

Judge Fowler ruled, “There was overwhelming evidence against the defendant. He failed to testify as any account would not withstand scrutiny.  Accordingly, I affirm the conviction.”

The judge ordered enquiries on the potential forfeiture of Maloney’s vehicle having been used in a crime.

A defence lawyer described the case as “unique”, being the first of its kind. He contended the offence was “attempted” so at the lower end of the scale.

Urging leniency the defence accepted Maloney still protests he did not commit the offence.

In relation to Maloney’s car the defence advised it is now “academic”, as it has since been scrapped.

The defence argued Maloney was suitable for community service which would “signal to him and the community that this behaviour is unacceptable”.

Judge Fowler held the penalty imposed was “entirely appropriate in every respect.”

He highlighted a potential for further offending and concluded, “I’m satisfied this was a blatant attempt to proposition sexual intercourse with a vulnerable woman who should never have been subjected to such humiliating and degrading behaviour.”

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