CLIFTONVILLE FC Jay Donnelly has been sentenced today to four months in prison for distributing an indecent image of a child.
The 23-year-old striker, of Ardilea Drive in north Belfast, pleaded guilty last December to the charge.
The offence took place on a date unknown between June and October 2016.
The District Judge said it was such a “gross invasion of privacy” that the only appropriate sentence was an immediate custodial sentence.
There were gasps in the public gallery of court 9 at Belfast Magistrates’ Court from his family who had accompanied to him to the sentencing hearing.
Donnelly has been granted bail pending appeal to Belfast County Court in the coming weeks.
A separate count of taking or making an indecent photograph was withdrawn.
Following his guilty plea in December, Cliftonville FC dropped him from the team.
The north Belfast club said in a statement at the time that it was “dealing with a very sensitive and delicate matter” in relation to Donnelly.
It said its committee had been “availing of advice from all parties involved, as well as support organisations” as it wanted to make sure that it acted “correctly when dealing with legal and employment matters”.
The club added that it had received legal advice not to comment further on the case.
“We assure all that this situation is extremely difficult to resolve and ask our supporters and indeed the media to please bear with us as we seek a resolution,” the club added.
“Having spoken to all parties and Jay Donnelly, it has been decided Jay will not represent Cliftonville Football Club in tomorrow’s fixture with Dungannon Swifts.”