A former children’s party organiser who sought online comfort from a teenage schoolgirl after his marriage broke down was given 12 months yesterday, for getting her to strip and email him the pictures.
Judge Desmond Marrinan told Alistair McIlroy, 29, while initially the social network contact was “completely innocuous and innocent” at a time “he felt lonely”, he then “unfortunately chose” to behave “in a way the law regards as criminal”.
The Antrim Crown Court judge said that a remorseful McIlroy accepted when he started chatting to the schoolgirl about his failed marriage, he thought she was only 14, but he then began making further requests of her.
He started by asking for photos of her dressed, then in her underwear, then naked, before finally asking her to touch herself in an intimate way.
In addition McIlroy sent the girl naked pics of himself.
Judge Marrinan said while McIlroy’s “was not the more dreadful case” of someone pretending to be a child seeking friends online, the “significant disparity” of ages between them and the trauma suffered by the schoolgirl meant that the immediate custodial threshold was passed.
The judge also told him it was a tragedy to see a young man, with a clear record, said to have acted out of character, “be brought low by your own criminality, which I am sure he bitterly regrets”.
“He has also become, for the time being at least, a social pariah,” Judge Marrinan added later.
McIlroy, petrol-bombed out of his former Ahoghill home in Co Antrim, admitted a total of six charges including sexual communication with a child, possession of indecent images and inciting a child to watch, engage in sexual activity between June 2015 and July the following year.
Last week prosecution barrister Tessa Kitson said the matter was reported to police after the girl told her parents what had occurred. She confided in them after she was told McIlroy had been showing off her online photographs.
Ms Kitson added the girl in turn told police how they’d met on social media and began talking before he began making increasing demands of her. The schoolgirl said she’d agreed to his request because he said he was her friend and it was “a normal thing to do”.
Defence barrister Michael Smyth said a deeply remorseful McIlroy’s life fell apart after his marriage to a childhood sweetheart failed and he began drinking, and chatting to and confiding in the schoolgirl.
However, Mr Smyth said that when the girl broke off contact, he deleted all material and at no stage did he attempt to re-enage with her.
The lawyer said that since the offences coming to light, his former home was attacked, and he had lost his business of organising parties for children in their own homes for their parents.
McIlroy, who was put on the Sex Offenders’ Register for ten years, and barred from working with children or vulnerable adults for life, will serve six months followed by six months on supervised licensed parole.