April 2021

Newtownabbey man jailed for sharing indecent child images

A Co Antrim man who admitted distributing and sharing indecent images of children in a bid to lure others into a relationship with him was sentenced today.

Ryan McConnell – who was suspended from his post as a health trust support worker when his offending emerged – was ordered to surrender himself to custody next week to begin a 12-month prison sentence.

This will be followed by a 12-month period on licence, after he admitted 10 counts of possessing indecent images of children, and 10 counts of distributing and sharing indecent images of children between November 2013 and February 2018.

The 39-year old, from Mayfield Walk in Newtownabbey, appeared at Belfast Crown Court via video-link with his solicitor’s office.

He was sentenced by Judge Stephen Fowler QC, who said a jail term was warranted due to the distribution element, and the fact some of the children being abused in the images and videos were babies.

As well as being handed a two-year sentence, McConnell was also placed on the Sex Offenders Register for 10 years and will be the subject of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order for seven years.

McConnell’s home was searched in February 2018 and a number of electrical items and storage devices were seized and examined, which were found to contain indecent images of children.

When McConnell’s WhatsApp was examined, it was clear he had been sharing these images with at least three people.

The Belfast Recorder was told by a Crown barrister “one of the aggravating factors is the very young age of the children involved.”

The barrister also said that whilst it was accepted McConnell did not share the images for financial gain, his motivation was to lure these people into a sexual relationship with him.

Judge Fowler said that after reading defence reports, McConnell suggested he was disgusted when he saw the images of children and denied having a sexual interest in youngsters.

The judge added: “Had he been as disgusted as he claimed he was, one would imagine he would not have shared these images with others.”

Noting McConnell had a clear criminal record, Judge Fowler said that his employment as a support worker for adults was suspended, and any further employment in the health and social work field would be “extremely unlikely.”

Branding the offending as “serious” and one where a jail term was “inevitable”, Judge Fowler imposed the two-year sentence and ordered McConnell to surrender himself to custody at Laganside Courts next Wednesday.