Northern Ireland news

Cliftonville striker Jay Donnelly given four-month prison sentence over indecent image of child

Cliftonville footballer Jay Donnelly was sentenced to four months in jail 

An Irish League footballer has been handed a four-month prison sentence for distributing an indecent image of a child.

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

Members of his family gasped in shock and wept following the sentencing.

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.

In a statement, Cliftonville FC said it will give the judgment "due consideration".

"Following the outcome of the court case involving Jay Donnelly, the judgment of the court and the intended appeal have been noted," a spokesman 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."

During a sentencing hearing at Belfast Magistrates' Court, 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 which included fellow Cliftonville players.

In October of that year the photograph was then leaked on Facebook.

The court heard how the girl felt 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 about his actions 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".

The judge sentenced Donnelly to four months in prison to gasps of shock from his family.

Jay Donnelly in action for Cliftonville

Donnelly was granted bail ahead of an appeal.

He made no comment to waiting media as he left court.

A spokesman for the Irish Football Association said it will not be making any comment on the case before the appeal is heard.

He added that the Irish FA notes the sentencing of Donnelly.

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