Irish league footballer appeal against indecent image jail term adjourned

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Jay Donnelly sentenced - image Alan Lewis

By Rebecca Black, Press Association

An Irish League footballer's appeal against a four-month prison sentence for sharing an indecent image of a 16-year-old girl has been adjourned.

Cliftonville striker Jay Donnelly, 23, of Ardilea Drive in Belfast, admitted the charge last November at Belfast Magistrates' Court, and on January 10 District Judge Amanda Henderson sentenced him to jail.

Donnelly was granted bail of £500 pending an appeal against the sentence.

The appeal hearing started on Friday at Belfast Magistrates' Court.

Defence barrister Michael Chambers asked for an adjournment pending a legal aid application and a psychiatric report.

Judge Roseanne McCormick agreed to a hearing date of March 5.

Donnelly was not in court for the brief hearing.

During the sentencing hearing, it emerged that in June 2016 Donnelly had taken a photograph, described in court as "extremely intimate", of a 16-year-old girl wearing his club's football shirt during a sexual act.

He then shared the image with a friend, and also with a group of 11 other people via the messaging service WhatsApp.

It was later leaked on social media.

Judge Henderson said it was such a "gross invasion of privacy" that the only appropriate sentence was an immediate custodial sentence.

Cliftonville FC dropped Donnelly as a player in November after he was convicted of the charge, however he remains on the club's payroll.

The details that emerged during the sentencing hearing sparked anger and calls for Cliftonville FC to discipline Donnelly.

In a brief initial statement, which did not mention the victim, the club said it would give the judgment "due consideration".

After receiving criticism from one of its supporters' clubs and a feminist group, Cliftonville FC issued a lengthier statement distancing itself from Donnelly's behaviour.

Cliftonville FC's statement came last Friday as the Irish Football Association announced that Donnelly will face its disciplinary committee.

The Irish FA said the committee will decide if the semi-professional player has brought the game into disrepute.

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