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The signing of convicted sex offender Jay Donnelly by Glentoran has been described as « disappointing » by a feminist group.
Striker Donnelly (25) has joined from Belfast Celtic after having served a three-month prison sentence last year for distributing an indecent image of a child.
Glentoran defended the decision, acknowledging Donnelly’s actions were wrong but urging fans to give him a chance to rebuild his career.
Under the terms of the transfer Donnelly is to be loaned back to Belfast Celtic until January.
Glentoran said it was « fully aware that speculation surrounding this signing in the past week has caused debate within our supporter base », and that the club was fully aware of the issues in the striker’s past.
In the club statement Donnelly spoke of his « complete remorse and regret » at the actions that led to his conviction.
The player was prosecuted for taking a picture of a 16-year-old girl while they were having sex in 2016. At the time he was at Cliftonville.
He admitted in November 2018 to distributing an indecent image of a child and was sentenced to four months.
Glentoran said: « Jay Donnelly was 20 years old when the incident in question took place.
« He has expressed deep remorse at the serious lapse of judgment which led to his conviction.
« At the time of Jay’s offence he was in a consensual act. Both parties were above the age of consent.
« A photograph was taken, and Jay’s crime was to share that photograph with a small, closed group of friends. This was wrong and Jay is fully aware and acknowledges it to be so.
« The photograph was then shared more widely by a third party, without the consent of either Jay or the young woman. As a result Jay was convicted and served his punishment accordingly. »
The statement said he had accepted that sharing the photo was « deeply inappropriate » and was an immature action that he « profoundly regrets ».
It added that he was now in a stable relationship, had a young son, and the club believed « everyone deserves a chance to put mistakes behind them ».
The club said employees will undertake educational courses in online behaviour and it will implement a new social media policy.
« Despite the language used in the statement, we cannot forget that Jay Donnelly shared a private image of a minor without her consent. This is a crime, regardless of the number of people he shared it with or whether they were his friends, and the sexual act being consensual, » the organisation said.
« We are disappointed that Jay will be undoubtedly held up as a role model when he is anything but, and we are disappointed that even in the midst of trying to acknowledge the hurt caused by Donnelly’s crime Glentoran has chosen to use language that plays down and makes excuses for his behaviour and attempts to shift blame on to others. »
Glentoran manager Mick McDermott has asked the fans to trust and back his judgment after signing former Cliftonville striker Jay Donnelly.
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World news – GB – Glentoran under fire for sex offender Jay Donnelly signing