A 31-year-old Belfast man who had a cyber sex affair with a teenage schoolgirl during which he orchestrated and choreographed her into sending indecent image of herself was sentenced to 28 months on Wednesday.
However, instead of dividing the sentence equally between prison and licensed parole, Judge Geoffrey Miller QC told Mark Nelson he was taking the exceptional course in which he will serve ten months custody followed by 18 months on supervised licence.
Judge Miller told Nelson, from North Gardens, had he contested the charges he would have been jailed for at least three and a half years, for inciting a child to engage in sex act, making indecent images of a child, possessing extreme pornography and possession of over 250 indecent images.
“This case highlights how pernicious and evil certain aspects of the internet can be,” said the judge, which had allowed Nelson, a social loner, to manipulate, dictate to a young schoolgirl using her and her images for his own sexual gratification, even after their affair ended.
Prosecution barrister Rosemary Walsh said that in February 2014 Nelson and the schoolgirl met on a open social chat room in which users were annoymous. Initially she told Nelson she was 14, but was in fact aged just 13, while he claimed to be 16, but at the time was ten years older, at 26.
Within a short time the chat between them became sexual in nature and Nelson soon “planted” the seed in a “quite subtle way” of encouraging her to take “naked pictures” of herself, and to send them to him. Ms Walsh added that the girl believed that Nelson was genuinely a teenage, although older than herself.
The lawyer said when then offences came to light, Nelson “did not deny the interaction he had with the teenager”, and readily provided his passwords for his computer and did not attempt to seek or prevent police seeing what was on it.
Defence lawyer Sean Devine said Nelson’s was not a case where a deterrent sentence, coupled with retribution was necessary and that “his big problem is not with relationships with young girls, but with this (computers)”.
Computers, he added became his only life as his own life was something that he could not handle given his underlying mental health problems. Mr Devine said there was nothing to suggest he was interested in young girls up until this, and that his real obsession was computers and the Internet.
The lawyer said his client by some form of “warped logic on his part, so long as he did not engage directly with the person on the screen, that it would remain a fantasy and that became addictive, although he purports to have genuine feelings for her .... and had not set out to manipulate and use her”.
Mr Devine said it was an “unusual case” in the sense that he is not a person who sought out children on the internet, and while normally attracted to adult female, Nelson was unable to function in society, effectively becoming reclusive. Nelson, he said, had also resisted the opportunity of developing the relationship further and when it ended did not distribute any of the images sent to him.