Belfast Telegraph

Cliftonville supporters 'dismay' at club's response following Jay Donnelly sentencing

Cliftonville Football Club supporters have voiced their "dismay" at the club's handling of striker Jay Donnelly's conviction for sharing an indecent photo of him having sex with a 16-year-old girl.

Donnelly (23), who admitted sharing the image with a friend and other players - including those from the Solitude outfit before it went viral, was sentenced to four months in jail on Thursday but later released pending an appeal of the sentencing.

The club said it would await the appeal verdict before considering its actions. The club had played Donnelly in one game the day after he admitted the charge but was later dropped. It is not clear if the club was aware of the guilty plea at the time the player took part in the game against Linfield. He remains on the club's books.

Some supporters said the club's response was "unacceptable" and damaging to the reputation of the club.

"The North Belfast Reds Supporters Club are dismayed by the statement from Cliftonville Football Club following the sentencing of Jay Donnelly yesterday," said the organisation in a statement.

"We believe that in light of the sentence and what is now in the public domain, that the club must act swiftly and begin full disciplinary proceedings against the player. To wait until the outcome of any possible appeal is unacceptable and damages the reputation of the club.

"Finally and most importantly there was a 16-year-old girl at the heart of this crime and our full sympathy goes out to her and her family. Victims should be our prime concern, not the those convicted."

The North Belfast Reds Supporters Club are dismayed by the statement from Cliftonville Football Club following the...

Posted by North Belfast Reds Cliftonville Supporters Club on Friday, January 11, 2019

Donnelly of Ardilea Drive in north Belfast, was granted bail pending an appeal against the sentence. He has also been placed on the Sex Offenders' Register.

The court heard that in June 2016 the 16-year-old victim had consented to a photograph in her underwear and a Cliftonville top.

The pair then had consensual sexual intercourse, during which Donnelly took an "extremely intimate" photograph of the girl.

Despite her asking Donnelly to delete it, he shared it with a friend and also in a WhatsApp group with 10 members, which included other Cliftonville players.

She said she was left humiliated and got abuse in the streets and messages from strangers after the image went viral.

The court heard Donnelly had expressed genuine remorse from the outset for the distress and humiliation caused to the victim, telling police: "F*** I feel for the girl and what I have put her through. I feel bad for being as stupid as f***."

Handing down her sentence Judge Amanda Henderson said Donnelly had committed an extreme abuse of trust by sending the "highly intimate" photo.

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