Belfast Telegraph

Cliftonville urged to do more after Jay Donnelly sentenced over indecent photograph

Cliftonville striker Jay Donnelly, 23, of Ardilea Drive in Belfast has been sentenced to four months in prison following his conviction.

A Belfast football club has come under pressure “to do more” after one of its players was sentenced to four months in prison for sharing an indecent photograph of a child.

Cliftonville striker Jay Donnelly, 23, of Ardilea Drive in Belfast, was convicted of the charge last November at Belfast Magistrates’ Court.

On Thursday, members of his family gasped in shock and wept in the same court as he was sentenced to four months in prison.

Donnelly was granted bail of £500 pending an appeal against the sentence.

The appeal hearing is due to start on January 18.

Cliftonville Football Club dropped Donnelly as a player in November after he was convicted of the charge, however he remains a member.

In a statement, Cliftonville FC said it will give the judgment “due consideration”.

The club are mindful of their duties and responsibilities and will continue to act on this basis. Cliftonville Football Club

“The judgment, as will the outcome of the appeal, will be given due consideration by Cliftonville Football Club,” a spokesman said.

“The club are mindful of their duties and responsibilities and will continue to act on this basis.”

A spokesman for the Irish Football Association said it will not be making any comment on the case before the appeal is heard.

The Belfast Feminist Network welcomed the sentencing, but criticised Cliftonville for its “non-committal statement”.

During the sentencing hearing on Thursday, it emerged that on June 21 2016, Donnelly had taken a photograph described in court as “extremely intimate” of a 16-year-old girl while they were having sexual intercourse.

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Irish League footballer Jay Donnelly, 23, leaves Belfast Magistrates’ Court where he was handed a four-month prison sentence for distributing an indecent image of a child (PA)

The prosecution contended that the girl asked Donnelly to delete the photograph, however his defence team disputed this.

Donnelly shared the photograph with a friend and also with a WhatsApp group with 10 members, which included fellow Cliftonville players.

In October of that year, the photograph was then leaked on Facebook.

A prosecutor said the girl was left humiliated and was subjected to verbal abuse on the street as a consequence.

A defence barrister for Donnelly told the court that his client has expressed real regret and great sorrow about his actions from his first police interview.

“He is crushed by what has happened as a result of his actions,” he said.

“This was not a malicious act on his part, it was impetuous and stupid, a young man acting out in bravado and boasting to his friends.”

Donnelly’s lawyer said his client’s footballing career has been left in “jeopardy”.

The lawyer added that, before this incident, his client had been an “exemplary professional” and a “role model”.

He also detailed that how in psychological testing, Donnelly had been found to have a very low IQ which placed him in the bottom 8% of the population.

“Someone like that will not appreciate the potential consequences of his actions,” he said.

District Judge Amanda Henderson said she found the case to be “such a gross invasion of privacy” that the only appropriate sentence was an immediate custodial sentence.

Donnelly made no comment to waiting media as he left court.

In a statement the Belfast Feminist Network expressed concern about the new detail which had emerged.

“The court has heard evidence of the impact this crime had on the victim in this case and the abuse and humiliation she suffered afterwards demonstrates clearly why this kind of crime is so reprehensible and how it plays on the misogyny endemic in our society,” a spokeswoman said.

“In addition to this, the news that this image was shared in a WhatsApp group with other Cliftonville players, and subsequently leaked from that group, should give us reason to be concerned about the culture of misogyny among players in that club, just like similar trials have given us an insight into the culture among some sportsmen.

“This may well be the tip of a large iceberg, and we plan to approach this in a systematic way in 2019.”

She added: “The statement released by Cliftonville FC today is brief and non-committal.

“They need to do better than this, especially in the wake of the new information about the details of the case.”

Meanwhile an NSPCC Northern Ireland spokesman said of the sentencing: “Sharing indecent images of a child is a serious offence, reflected in the custodial sentence imposed on Donnelly by the court.”

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