A Co Armagh woman convicted of ‘sexting’ and grooming a teenage schoolgirl has escaped jail, solely because of her disabled adopted son.
Judge Gordon Kerr QC said that, although it was “perfectly clear” that 50-year-old Amanda McClean deserved to go to jail for her offences, it was “with some reluctance” that he considered there were exceptional circumstances to the pervert’s family dynamic.
Having heard that the disabled teenager would have to go into the care system if McClean was jailed, he told the 50-year-old in no uncertain terms he wanted to make it “crystal clear that it is the care of your son that’s keeping you out of prison” and warned the convicted lesbian paedophile not to reoffend because “this chance will not be repeated”.
Following a week long trial, the jury deliberated for 40 minutes before unanimously convicting 50-year-old McClean on each of the six counts against her.
McClean, from Sleepy Valley in Richhill, was convicted of six offences committed between October 3 and 11, 2018, including four counts of sexual communication with a child and single charges of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity and meeting a child following sexual grooming.
During the trial the jury heard how McClean met the then 14-year-old schoolgirl through a relative a few months before the offences came to light in October 2018.
Teachers at the teenager’s school seized her mobile phone and when her mother checked through it, she saw “numerous examples of sexualised conversation going to and from the girl’s phone”.
“The person sending the messages indicates that a relationship would be inappropriate but then ends the text saying I love you,” said the judge during his sentencing remarks on Wednesday.
The jury heard that amongst the messages McClean had told the girl: “I can’t wait to get at you properly. It’s going to be mind blowing. I’m horny as f***.”
There was also a series of ‘sexting’ messages which were, as prosecuting counsel Geraldine McCullough put it, “indicative of an understanding between the parties that they were engaging in a sex act at the same time while texting each other”.
“There are messages which are a graphic example of sexting and refers to kissing, licking and orgasm,” said Ms McCullough.
Arrested and interviewed, McClean denied the messages had come from her but the jury heard evidence that the phone number which sent the messages, despite it being registered to a Joe Bloggs, was registered to the defendant’s address and that the SIM card was ordered online using the defendant’s internet provider address.
On Wednesday, Judge Kerr revealed that McClean’s grooming had been “so successful” that initially the teenager herself had tried to cover for the elder, more manipulative sex predator, claiming that she and another girl had been sending messages.
Turning to aspects of the case to be taken into consideration in sentencing, Judge Kerr said while there were no mitigating features about McClean herself or the offences, as she had fully contested the case, so there was no evidence of remorse, there were also multiple aggravating features including the 31 year age difference and the effect the offending has had on the victim.
Even though there was no actual physical sexual contact, “it’s a bad case of it’s kind”, said the judge, adding that the only mitigation he could see was in relation to the defendant’s adopted son who “needs a considerable amount of care and attention” given his disabilities.
Judge Kerr told McClean while there were “disturbing aspects” to her offences which were “reprehensible”, the situation of her adopted son made the case “truly exceptional” so he was suspending the 30 month prison sentence for three years.
In addition, McClean was ordered to sign the police sex offenders register for the rest of her life, barred from working with children and was also handed a seven year Sexual Offences Prevention Order.