Belfast Telegraph

Belfast man Woodside jailed after teen's dad saw sexually explicit Facebook messages

One year jail term for sexually abusing girl

A 34-year old Belfast man who groomed and sexually abused a "vulnerable" teenage girl was sent to prison today.

Belfast Crown Court heard that Johnathan Woodside's offending came to light after the girl's father saw sexually explicit messages between the pair on her Facebook account.

Handing Woodside a sentence of two years and three months, Judge Patricia Smyth told the Highfield Drive man: "You exploited a crush that the complainant developed in order to feed your own sexual preoccupation and fantasies at the time."

Informing him that he will spend half his sentence in prison with the remainder on licence upon his release, the Judge also told Woodside that he "exploited and manipulated" a relationship with her, which he controlled for "sexual gratification."

Woodside pleaded guilty to six offences which he committed over a four-month period from September 2013 to January 2014.

During that time, Woodside persuaded the girl to send him indecent images of her private parts, as well as meeting her following grooming. He also admitting causing a child to engage in sexual activity with him.

The complainant - who has a degree of mental impairment and attended a special school - believed she was Woodside's girlfriend. The court heard she is socially and emotionally immature, and has basic speech, language and learning difficulties.

The sexual abuse occurred in both the complainant's and Woodside's home, and also in the car park at Cave Hill.

Contact between the pair in that four-month period, the court heard, also amounted to over 100 calls and around 30 texts, as well as communication on Facebook and WhatsApp.

Judge Smyth told Woodside there was "no doubt" he was aware of both her age and her vulnerability when he started an "inappropriate relationship" with her.

The Judge also said that while it was clear any sexual activity between Woodside and the girl was fully consensual, and that the girl believed Woodside was her boyfriend, at the time she was 14 and he was 30.

Judge Smyth said that after reading a statement made by the girl, Woodside's offending has had an impact on her - but she also spoke of other traumatic issues that have affected her life.

Telling the court "there is no question these offences are serious", Judge Smyth said she was taking into account Woodside's lack of relevant offending, and the fact the Probation Board has not deemed him to present a risk of harm to the public.

Woodside was sent to jail and was told: "You took advantage of a vulnerable girl for your own sexual gratification."

The Belfast man was also placed on the Sex Offenders Register for ten years, and was made the subject of a ten-year Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO).

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