Jay Donnelly sentencing: Cliftonville will consider player’s future after his appeal

Cliftonville has said the club has “noted” the prison sentence handed to striker Jay Donnelly, as it will the outcome of his appeal, and then give it “due consideration”.

The Irish League footballer was jailed for four months in Belfast on Thursday for sharing an indecent photo of a 16-year-old girl, two years ago, with a number of other players.

Cliftonville FC manager Barry Gray (left) and club chairman Gerard Lawlor arriving at Belfast court for an earlier hearing in the Jay Donnelly case.  'Picture: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press

Cliftonville FC manager Barry Gray (left) and club chairman Gerard Lawlor arriving at Belfast court for an earlier hearing in the Jay Donnelly case. 'Picture: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press

District Judge Amanda Henderson told the 23-year-old he had committed an extreme abuse of trust by sending the image – of Donnelly having sex with the girl – which then went viral.

The club angered a number of feminist groups by selecting Donnelly for matches after he had been charged with illegally distributing the image.

However, he was dropped from the squad following his conviction in November last year.

A club spokesman said: “The judgment, as well as the outcome of the appeal, will be given due consideration by Cliftonville Football Club.

Jay Donnelly was released on bail pending his appeal of the four-month sentence

Jay Donnelly was released on bail pending his appeal of the four-month sentence

“The club are mindful of their duties and responsibilities and will continue to act on this basis.”

In November, Cliftonville described the prosecution of Donnelly as “a very sensitive and delicate matter” and said: “The club committee must always ensure that they act correctly when dealing with legal and employment matters and, as such, we have over the past few days been speaking to and availing of advice from all parties involved as well as support organisations.”

Following Thursday’s court hearing, the Belfast Feminist Network expressed concern over the new details which had emerged in court.

“The court has heard evidence of the impact this crime had on the victim in this case and the abuse and humiliation she suffered afterwards demonstrates clearly why this kind of crime is so reprehensible and how it plays on the misogyny endemic in our society,” a spokeswoman said.

“In addition to this, the news that this image was shared in a WhatsApp group with other Cliftonville players, and subsequently leaked from that group, should give us reason to be concerned about the culture of misogyny among players in that club, just like similar trials have given us an insight into the culture among some sportsmen.

“This may well be the tip of a large iceberg, and we plan to approach this in a systematic way in 2019.”

She added: “The statement released by Cliftonville FC today is brief and non-committal. They need to do better than this, especially in the wake of the new information about the details of the case.”

Also responding, a spokesperson for NSPCC NI said: “Sharing indecent images of a child is a serious offence, reflected in the custodial sentence imposed on Donnelly by the court.

“The children in images distributed in this way are victims of crime and the NSPCC is campaigning for more to be done to prevent adults from sharing such material on social media and for providers to do more to remove it from their platforms.”

Children can seek help and advice for concerns about anything they may have seen online via the NSPCC Childline service on 0800 1111 or www.childline.org