Belfast Telegraph

Police not investigating anyone else in Jay Donnelly case - feminists plan protest if club fail to take action

Jay Donnelly
Jay Donnelly
Feminist activist Elaine Crory had harsh words for Jay Donnelly and his club Cliftonville FC
Victoria Leonard

By Victoria Leonard

Cliftonville FC has vowed to take action in relation to the case of Jay Donnelly - as it moved to distance itself from his behaviour.

On Thursday the footballer was sentenced to four months in prison for sharing an indecent photo of him having sex with a 16-year-old girl.

The court heard that the 23-year-old striker shared the image with a friend and 10 other players in a WhatsApp social media group.

It comes as the PSNI said it is "not investigating any other individuals in relation to the case of footballer Jay Donnelly at this time".

The PSNI issued the statement to the Belfast Telegraph after supporters of the club hit out at it for failing to begin full disciplinary proceedings against the striker.

Belfast Feminist Network says it will consider protesting outside Solitude if Cliftonville does not discipline Donnelly.

The PSNI said yesterday it is "not investigating any other individuals in relation to this case at this time. However, should further information be brought to the PSNI this will be examined."

The Irish Football Association said that Donnelly has "been referred to the IFA's disciplinary committee, which will decide if he has brought the game into disrepute".

Donnelly, of Ardilea Drive in north Belfast, previously pleaded guilty to distributing an indecent photo of a child on a date unknown between June and October 2016.

A separate charge of taking or making an indecent image was withdrawn.

He was granted bail pending an appeal against the sentence, and has been placed on the Sex Offenders' Register.

After the sentencing, Cliftonville FC 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."

In a further statement last night, it said it "does not condone such behaviour and recognises the impact that this has had on the victim and her family". It added that it "condemns such actions without question", and said it is "currently receiving legal advice and, when we are in a clear position to act, the club will do so, responsibly and within the requirements of employment law".

It said that it had asked the IFA and Northern Ireland Football League to be part of a "consultative group that will help frame the club's player education policies going forward". It also vowed to "co-operate as necessary" with relevant authorities, charitable and advisory bodies.

Donnelly remains on the Reds' books.

Yesterday, North Belfast Reds Cliftonville Supporters Club said it believed the Solitude outfit "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," it added.

"Victims should be our prime concern, not those convicted."

Belfast Feminist Network member Elaine Crory called the club's failure to discipline Donnelly to date "extremely disappointing".

"I agree with the supporters who really want to see them take a stand against this," she said.

"He ought to be disciplined in a serious manner, not just put on the bench until the heat's off.

"I don't think it's acceptable to the public.

"We are hoping that Cliftonville will take action, but if they don't, a protest is very possible."

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

A prosecutor said the photograph was leaked on Facebook four months later.

On October 25, the injured party began receiving text messages about the image, which left her humiliated. She was also verbally abused on the street.

Ms Crory said that the revelations raised "questions about what happens" in that WhatsApp group.

Referring to last year's rugby rape trial, in which players' crude exchanges in a WhatsApp group were revealed, she added: "In the rugby trial we got a snapshot into a tone of conversation that was shocking, and there's no reason to believe this is any better.

"There seems to be a widely accepted misogyny, and we want to change it.

"I would encourage the club to launch an investigation into the other players who were involved."

Donnelly played in a fixture against Linfield in November, a day after pleading guilty. It is unclear whether Cliftonville knew of the guilty plea at that time. He has not played since. Cliftonville will play Ards in the Danske Bank Irish Premiership this afternoon.

Donnelly's appeal hearing will start on January 18.

The IFA said yesterday that, in conjunction with the NIFL, it "will introduce a new education programme around lifestyle, attitude and values for club players and staff".

"The safeguarding of children remains the highest priority of the association and our sympathy is with the victim and her family in this case," it added.

Cliftonville FC's sponsor Sean Graham Bookmakers said it was in contact with the club, but not making any public comment.

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