Footballer Donnelly jailed over sex picture of teenage girl

Irish League footballer Jay Donnelly has been jailed for sharing an indecent image of a child.

A judge hearing the striker’s sentence appeal at Belfast County Court reduced his original jail term from four months to three on Tuesday morning.

But 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.

Jay Donnelly
Jay Donnelly (fourth from left) arriving with family and friends at the court in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

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 the messaging service 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 that the image would be online forever.

“It remains forever on the worldwide web, it’s incapable of deletion,” he said.

Donnelly showed no emotion as he was told he was going to jail. One supporter called out “we love you Jay” as he was led away by court guards.

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