Cliftonville issues statement after Donnelly jail term

Cliftonville's Jay Donnelly was handed a four-month prison sentence. Credit: Pacemaker

Cliftonville Football Club has issued a statement after player Jay Donnelly was handed a four-month jail sentence for distributing an indecent image of a child.

During court proceedings, it emerged that Donnelly had taken an “extremely intimate” photograph of a 16-year-old girl while they were having sexual intercourse in June 2016.

He shared the photograph with a friend and also with a WhatsApp group which included fellow Cliftonville players, before the photo was later leaked on Facebook.

The court heard how the girl felt humiliated and was subjected to verbal abuse on the street as a consequence.

In Friday’s statement, Cliftonville said it wished to reiterate that “the club does not condone such behaviour” and that it recognised the impact on the victim and her family.

The statement added: “The club is currently receiving legal advice and, when we are in a clear position to act, the club will do so, responsibly and within the requirements of employment law.”

Donnelly has been granted bail pending an appeal against the sentence.

The safeguarding of children remains the highest priority of the association and our sympathy is with the victim and her family in this case.

Irish FA

Cliftonville further said: “We understand and appreciate that our supporters and others would welcome detailed commentary and statements on this matter, but we are constrained by the framework within which we as employers are legally obliged to operate.”

The club says it has asked both the Irish FA and NIFL to be part of a consultative group that will help frame the club’s player education policies going forward.

In a statement, the IFA added: “Jay Donnelly has been referred to the Irish FA’s Disciplinary Committee which will decide if he has brought the game into disrepute.

“Following the case and the issues that it raised, the Irish FA in conjunction with the Northern Ireland Football League will introduce a new education programme around lifestyle, attitude and values for club players and staff.

“It is proposed that this programme will be linked to club licensing, making it mandatory.”