Belfast Telegraph

Supporters urge Cliftonville to act against player convicted over sex photograph

Footballer Jay Donnelly was sentenced to four months in prison for sharing an indecent photograph of a child.

An Irish League team’s supporters club has urged it to start disciplinary proceedings against a player who received a four month prison sentence for sharing an indecent photograph of a child.

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

On Thursday he was sentenced to four months in prison, but released on bail pending appeal.

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, which did not mention the victim, Cliftonville FC said it will give the judgment “due consideration”.

“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.”

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

The North Belfast Reds Cliftonville Supporters Club voiced “dismay” at the statement.

In a Facebook post it stated: “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 convicted.”

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Irish League footballer Jay Donnelly, 23, leaves Belfast Magistrates’ Court (Rebecca Black/PA)

Cliftonville FC has also been criticised by the Belfast Feminist Network for its “non-committal statement”.

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

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.

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.

Several months later the photograph was leaked on Facebook, leaving the girl humiliated and subjected to verbal abuse on the street.

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

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.

The appeal hearing is set to begin on January 18.

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