October 2017

Man sent to jail for sexual abuse of 14-year-old girl

A 34-year old man who groomed and sexually abused a “vulnerable” schoolgirl has been jailed.

Belfast Crown Court heard that Johnathan Woodside’s offending came to light after the girl’s father saw sexually explicit messages between the pair on her Facebook account.

Handing Woodside a sentence of two years and three months, Judge Patricia Smyth told the Highfield Drive man: “You exploited a crush that the complainant developed in order to feed your own sexual preoccupation and fantasies at the time.”

Woodside pleaded guilty to six offences which he committed over a four-month period from September 2013 to January 2014.

He will spend half his sentence in prison with the remainder on licence upon his release

During that time, Woodside persuaded the girl to send him indecent images of herself.

He also admitting causing a child to engage in sexual activity with him.

The complainant – who has a degree of mental impairment and attended a special school – believed she was Woodside’s girlfriend.

The court heard she is socially and emotionally immature, and has basic speech, language and learning difficulties.

The sexual abuse occurred in both the complainant’s and Woodside’s home, and also in the carpark at Cavehill.

Contact between Woodside, who at the time was 30, and the girl who was 14, the court heard, amounted to more than 100 calls and around 30 texts, as well as communication on Facebook and WhatsApp.

Judge Smyth told Woodside there was “no doubt” he was aware of both her age and her vulnerability when he started an “inappropriate relationship” with her.

Telling the court “there is no question these offences are serious”, Judge Smyth said she was taking into account Woodside’s lack of relevant offending, and the fact the Probation Board has not deemed him to present a risk of harm to the public.

Woodside was sent to jail and was told: “You took advantage of a vulnerable girl for your own sexual gratification.”

He was also placed on the Sex Offenders Register for ten years, and was made the subject of a ten-year Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO).