Belfast, May 31: A church youth group leader who had sex with a 15-year-old girl has been jailed for three and a half years.
Jamie McKeag, 23, from Wedderburn Gardens in Belfast, pleaded guilty to four offences of sexual activity with a child over a two-month period in 2010.
Appearing in Belfast Crown Court on Tuesday, McKeag was banned from working with children and placed on the police sex offenders register for life.
The judge told McKeag it was her duty to “signal society’s abhorrence”.
Judge Gemma Loughran said that those who exploited children for their own sexual gratification “must realise that they will face considerable periods of prison”.
The court heard McKeag met the teenage schoolgirl through a church group and that their relationship developed through text messaging and internet chatting.
Arrested and interviewed, McKeag made full confessions to police and later pleaded guilty to the charges.
A prosecution solicitor said what while his guilty plea was a mitigating factor, it was an aggravating feature that “there’s a flavour to the case of a breach of trust” because he had abused his position with the church “in entering this sexual relationship”.
There had also been, added the lawyer, a significant negative impact on the teenager and her wider family.
A defence solicitor told the court that McKeag “fully accepts that he did wrong,” telling the court the case was “an absolute tragedy for everybody”.
He said McKeag, a former captain of Friends school rugby team, who had been studying for a diploma in theology when he was arrested, “could have had so much to offer people and that has all been lost to him, all through his own fault”.
In jailing McKeag, Judge Loughran said the legislation was in place to protect “vulnerable and immature people” who may not wish to protect themselves or put themselves in vulnerable positions “as your victim did”.
He was ordered to serve 18 months in jail followed by two years on licence.