Belfast Telegraph

Footballer sentenced to four months in jail over indecent image

Donnelly was granted bail pending an appeal against the sentence.

An Irish League footballer has been 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 pending an appeal against the sentence.

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”.

“Following the outcome of the court case involving Jay Donnelly, the judgment of the court and the intended appeal have been noted,” a spokesman said.

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

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

During the sentencing hearing, 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 (Rebecca Black/PA)

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.

The court heard how on October 25, the girl started getting texts about the image.

A prosecutor said she 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 was “mortified” at the photograph being leaked on Facebook and the impact it had on the victim.

He said Donnelly has expressed regret and great sorrow about his actions and the impact on the girl from his first police interview.

The lawyer described his client’s actions as a “foolish ill-thought-out act of bravado”.

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

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

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.

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

He added that the Irish FA notes the sentencing of Donnelly.

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.

“The children in images distributed in this way are victims of crime and the NSPCC is campaigning for more to be done to prevent adults from sharing such material on social media and for providers to do more to remove it from their platforms.”

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