An Armagh man who pleaded guilty to attempted sexual communication with a child has been sentenced.
Steven Edward Wells (62) of Drummore Road, pleaded guilty to the single charge at Armagh Magistrates’ Court, sitting in Newry, which occurred on dates between March 29 and May 6, 2021.
Wells, who was told to reside in Armagh, was sentenced to enhanced combination order – 60 hours of community service and two years on probation.
Previously, Wells, through his defence team, had attempted to have a ban placed on the publication of his name, citing the potential for self harm if named publicly.
Seeking anonymity at the time, a defence barrister stated: “You can see the nature of the charge. I have been made aware of concerns around self-harm if identified.”
But in a scathing rebuke on such applications, Judge Kelly described press as “essential” and claims of self-harm by those accused of alleged sexual offending are aimed at exclusion of identities to protect their status within the community.
The defence suggested a psychiatric report would support his application, to which Judge Kelly replied: “You’ll need an awful lot more than that. I appreciate this is a balancing critique of rights but I always quote the tagline of the Washington Post – Democracy Dies in Darkness. Never truer words were spoken. There has to a light shone into the dark recesses, to ensure the public can have confidence and all of us are answerable. As far as I’m concerned the Press is the Fourth Estate and are essential to assuring the other three branches of our constitution do so in a fit and proper way.”
She told the defence: “Unless you can give me an actual reason – which so far I haven’t heard – I will not be making any orders banning publication of name or details. The bar is particularly high. I need evidence of fact and not possibility.”
In respect of the self-harm contention if named, Judge Kelly remarked: “People face these types of charges, then say ‘Oh this is terrible. I’m going to do X, Y and Z. Don’t report this as it will affect me and my standing in my community’. As a parent and grandparent I always like to know, not for any nefarious reason, but I can set parameters not to go up a lane, go into a house or take a lift and such like.”
Addressing the press at the time, Judge Kelly said: “Publish as much information as you want, except anything which could in any way identify an alleged victim or injured party.”