Irish League footballer jailed for sharing indecent image of child

Belfast court reduces footballer Jay Donnelly’s term from four months to three on sentence appeal

Footballer Jay Donnelly arrives at Laganside Court in Belfast. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Footballer Jay Donnelly arrives at Laganside Court in Belfast. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

 

An Irish League footballer has been jailed in the North for sharing an indecent image of a child.

The judge hearing his sentence appeal in Belfast County Court reduced Jay Donnelly’s term from four months to three.

Judge David McFarland declined to suspend the sentence, insisting a custodial term was appropriate, given the need to send out a strong “deterrent” to others.

Cliftonville FC player Donnelly (23) of Ardilea Drive in Belfast, admitted the charge in November at Belfast Magistrates’ Court. He had been on bail pending the outcome of the appeal against his original sentence.

On Tuesday, family and friends wept in the public gallery of the court as Judge McFarland ordered Donnelly to be taken down to the cells ahead of being transported to prison.

In June 2016, Donnelly took a photograph of himself having sex with a 16-year-old girl who was wearing a Cliftonville shirt with his name and number on the back.

He shared the image with a friend and with a number of fellow players on WhatsApp. It was later leaked on social media.

Judge McFarland said the incident had had a deep and lasting impact on the victim.

He said Donnelly had treated the girl as a “sexual conquest or trophy” and had taken and shared the picture to “boast about his sexual exploits to friends”.

The judge noted the image would be online forever. “It remains forever on the worldwide web, it’s incapable of deletion,” he said. – PA