Man jailed for ‘super-imposing’ women’s faces on porn pictures

Court
Court

A Ballymoney man who super-imposed the faces of two women on to sexually explicit photographs which he put on the internet has been jailed for three months for a “vile” campaign which lasted four years.

The two victims looked on at Coleraine Magistrates Court on Monday as shamed Jonathan McClure (31), of Bendooragh Road, was sentenced after previously pleading guilty to three charges of harassment relating to dates between 2011 and 2015.

A prosecutor said McClure had gone to school with one of the women and knew the other as a friend of a friend. One image used was when one of the women was 16.

District Judge Liam McNally said it was the worst case he had ever seen of the “manipulation” of social media.

Defence barrister Francis Rafferty said McClure was living in an “alternative reality”.

McClure, who had a previously clear record, was jailed for three months and also has to pay each of the women £1,000 compensation. A two year Harassment Order has also been put in place.

Throughout the hearing a tearful McClure, who was accompanied to court by his mother and father, sat with his head bowed and at one stage during a break in proceedings he was held in the court cells for around an hour.

The prosecutor said McClure pretended to be from a model agency and emailed a leading figure in the Northern Ireland beauty industry but when she checked a website it showed photos of a “sexual nature” and police were called.

The prosecutor said McClure had taken images of the faces of the two victims and placed them on false body images which were shown in a number of sexual positions.

The prosecutor said a fake Facebook profile was also set up in the name of one of the victims causing “great stress and anxiety”.

Police seized McClure’s computer and he admitted setting up a fake website and uploading images of the women but he denied editing them.

The prosecutor said McClure told investigators he didn’t know the girl was 16.

Defence lawyer Francis Rafferty said nothing he would say sought to diminish the obvious anguish of the victims.

“This was a terrible thing to happen to anybody,” he said.

Mr Rafferty added it was clear McClure had borne the girls no ill will, which the Judge said made the offending even “more insidious”.

Mr Rafferty said McClure had in fact “venerated” the women who he regarded as “beautiful and successful”.

He said his client was living in an “alternative reality that begins and ends with a computer screen” but he had to realise consequences flow.

Mr Rafferty said McClure, who he said had mental health issues, had “lost the run of himself” and thought what he was doing was to “ease feelings of inadequacy”.

He said the defendant had “drifted away from the norms of society” and had “ensconced himself in a virtual blanket of absolute make-belief” and is now ashamed.

Jailing McClure, Judge McNally said: “In many ways this is the worst example of the manipulation of social media I have seen. This man was conducting a campaign of vilification”.

He said it showed how easy it was for somebody to sit on a laptop in their room at night and create havoc with “absolutely appalling” images which caused “harm, upset and humiliation” to the injured parties.

The judge told McClure: “You conducted this insidious campaign from behind a computer from 2011 to 2015 without any thought whatsoever to the consequences of your selfish and cowardly behaviour.”

Judge McNally said the women were of the “highest character” but were “misrepresented to the public in a vile and distasteful manner” by McClure.

The judge said there was premeditation and false websites of a “sexual nature” were created over a period of time.

He took into account the guilty plea and clear record and noted there had been a delay in bringing the case to court.

Judge McNally added: “It is easy to sit in your room behind a computer and cause this damage.”

The courts, said the judge, had a duty to send out a message to the public that people who cause “untold harm and hurt” through social media have to realise they could face jail.

He said an aggravating feature was that despite being interviewed by police in 2014, McClure had continued his campaign.

“Anyone who portrays young girls in the way you portrayed them, showing them in absolutely humiliating unusual sexual positions, deserves to go to prison” added the judge.

McClure was released on his own bail of £500 pending appeal.

Afterwards, the women did not want to speak about the case.