A County Armagh bar manager who repeatedly sent a young teenage girl messages asking her to come into his bedroom because “he wanted to show her something” has been handed a 13-month sentence.
Gary Keenan, of St John’s Park in Cullyhanna, was convicted of two counts of harassment following an eight day trial at Newry Crown Court.
The 27-year-old was acquitted of further charges of inciting sexual activity and sexual assault.
During his sentencing hearing today (Tuesday), Crown Court Judge Gordon Kerr QC, outlined how the offending caused the victim – who was aged between 12 and 14 at the time – to suffer a plethora of “negative repercussions” as a result of his actions.
Judge Kerr outlined the impact it had in terms of “family relationships, physical fitness” and that she had to “give up her job, the damage to her school work and exams and also explains the anxiety that this offending has caused her and the difficulties she had in making disclosure”.
During the first incident, between New Year’s Eve 2018 and the next morning, Keenan’s “constant harassment” was described as repeated “pings” to the victim’s phone asking her to come into the bedroom.
Judge Kerr, describing the first incident to the court, said that when the victim went into the bedroom “he was sitting on the bed putting on his pyjama trousers saying he wanted to show her something and continued to try and encourage her to come into the room”.
In relation to the second incident, in May 2019, the court heard how the victim’s phone started to go, with messages of “come in, come in”.
“He started texting me on Snapchat and kept telling me to come in,” the judge continued. “I opened it once and it went again and again. I then stopped opening it and then I put my music on full blast and went to sleep and I woke up and saved it. Every time he did something he has just got up the next day and acted like nothing had happened.”
Judge Kerr, in his sentencing remarks, commented: “It is clear the harassment which occurred, occurred in a sexualised context.”
While offering no mitigating circumstances Judge Kerr referenced the child’s age at the time as an aggravating feature, adding that she was “distressed and frightened by his behaviour”.
“He ignored her refusals and distress by persisting to text her to come into her room.”
In a pre-sentence report, it was outlined how Keenan – who had been engaged to be married at the time – fails to “understand how the victim felt harassed despite the conviction”.
In handing down a 13-month sentence, half of which will be served on licence, Judge Kerr said: “In this case I have to have regard to the fact that this was sexualised harassment, which makes it of the most serious type.
“This was in relation to a young woman, who was a teenager at the time, and has caused her exceptional distress.”
Keenan was also handed a five-year restraining order in relation to the victim.