PICTURE : MARK JAMIESON
A man found guilty of sending sexual images to a 14-year-old girl he met at a band parade in County Antrim, was given a four months jail sentence on Friday.
Dillan John Douglas, (21) of Tardree Grove, Ballymena, appeared before Coleraine Magistrates Court where he had, on an earlier date, denied the one charge he faced but was convicted after a contest.
He now has to sign the Sex Offenders’ Register.
The charge he was found guilty of was that on a date between April 1 and July 17, 2016, ‘for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification’ the defendant ‘intentionally communicated with… a person under 16, the communication being sexual’ and he ‘did not reasonably believe that she was 16 or over’.
At the contested hearing in February, District Judge Liam McNally said he was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Douglas was guilty.
The contest hearing was told the girl, now aged 16, was 13 when she met Douglas at a band parade in Ballymoney and a number of months later they made contact on Facebook and then Snapchat.
The girl said she then received a photograph of Douglas’ penis, which she ignored as it “disgusted” her. She added: “He kept asking me to send him a photo in return.
“I told him no, I was only 14 at that time. He pestered me every day, sometimes three or four times a day, asking me for photos.
“In the end I thought it would make him stop if I sent him one back. I sent him one of my boobs with a bra on and he sent me another back.”
The girl told police Douglas had sent images of his penis on Snapchat and a video of him masturbating.
Douglas’ defence lawyer put it to the injured party that she had “made the story up” to appease her mother when she found the messages on her phone – an allegation the girl denied.
Giving evidence, the girl’s mother told how she randomly checked her children’s phones and “became alarmed” when she found messages from Douglas.
The defendant was back at Coleraine Court on Friday for sentencing.
Outlining the case a prosecutor said the teenage girl’s mother had contacted police amidst concerns about “explicit images” from an older male.
The prosecutor said the girl had said she was 14 and that Douglas had said he would be “twenty in a couple of weeks”.
The prosecuting lawyer said Douglas sent a picture of his penis on Snapchat and asked the girl to send pictures to him before he sent another picture of his penis and a video of him masturbating.
When arrested no images were found on devices but there were messages showing the defendant making “sexualised remarks” including talking about “cuddles”.
The court heard Douglas claimed to police the girl told him she was 16 but that the girl had denied that.
The court was told the defendant declined to give evidence during the court contest.
Defence barrister Michael Smyth said no images were found on any devices belonging to either Douglas or the complainant.
Mr Smyth said the defendant still denies the offence and now has the “stigma” of having to sign the Sex Offenders’ Register.
The lawyer said Douglas said he thought the girl was over 16 and alleged that any contact was “non-sexualised” and there had been no incitement to meet the girl.
Mr Smyth said the defendant had denied sending images but that he had been convicted on the basis that the girl said she received them.
Judge McNally said there were “disturbing” aspects to the case and told Douglas: “Social media has many benefits but it can be used for pernicious purposes and that’s exactly what you did on this occasion”.
The judge added: “You sent photos of your penis and a disgusting video of you masturbating to a young 14-year-old girl”.
He said Douglas had also persuaded the child to send a photo of herself in her bra.
In pleading not guilty, the judge said the defendant had put the girl through a “certain amount of trauma” by having to give evidence.
Judge McNally added: “In order that a court can send out a deterrent to other people of your age who groom young children a custodial sentence will be imposed”.
Douglas was given a four months jail term but was released on £500 bail pending appeal.