Irish League footballer sentenced to four months in jail over indecent image

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. Photo credit: Rebecca Black/PA Wire.

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.

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.

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.

- Press Association

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