A Banbridge man who is in custody accused of exchanging sexually explicit messages and images with a 14-year-old boy via Snapchat has been denied bail despite a continued delay in the case.
The 32-year-old’s solicitor claimed that initial contact had been made by the complainant in the case who he said had been posing as a 22-year-old woman.
Andrew Trevor Williams, of Old Bleach Green, appeared charged with breaching a Sexual Offences Prevention Order, sexual communication with a child and inciting a child to engage in a sexual activity at Banbridge Magistrates’ Court – sitting at Newry – on Thursday, via videolink from Maghaberry.
Prosecution told the court: “This is a complex and wide ranging case with the defendant’s first appearance being back on June 14 and there have been several bail applications.”
The most recent of these was on September 19 when Williamson had applied for compassionate bail to receive dental treatment.
Defence solicitor Conleth Downey, on that occasion, said the defendant would have to wait a year to receive that treatment through the prison system and that this was “against his human rights”.
On Thursday, prosecution outlined the facts in the case which were that on May 17 police were contacted by a 14-year-old boy who claimed to have received sexually explicit images and messages, via Snapchat, from a user named ‘DrewAndy77’.
He alleged that he had also been sent messages from this person asking for him to carry out sexual acts.
Screenshots of the messages and photographs were sent to the police.
Through Snapchat maps police were able to get a location for the user ‘DrewAndy77’ and suspected the defendant to be person involved.
An officer identified Williamson through photos and a vehicle which was connected to him.
Prosecution told court that this alleged offence would be in breach of a live Sexual Offences Prevention Order, currently imposed on the defendant, which prohibits him from contacting any child under the age of 18.
Williamson was subsequently arrested and taken to Lisburn Police Station and when cautioned for the offence he replied: “I deny this”.
When asked to hand over his phone the defendant claimed he had dropped it in a river but it was subsequently located in his vehicle.
During a search of Williamson’s home, police seized two hard drives, three pen drives, an iPad and 14 DVD discs.
Prosecution stated: “He has an appalling record which shows a flagrant disregard for laws and court orders.
“It would be my respectful submission that there is no footing on which to make this application.”
Mr Downey said: “With regards to this incident, initial contact was made to him through his private story which is shared with friends.
“He was contacted by a woman named Sarah claiming to be 22 years of age, however, this 22-year-old Sarah turned out to be a 14-year-old boy.”
He continued: “The main thrust of this application is the delay in the case. The officer in charge attended Maghaberry unannounced and asked my client for the password to his phone.
“He denied to make any comment because of the absence of his legal representative, which he is entitled to do, but on September 19 I made it clear he would provide this; the police have failed to contact me since.”
A constable gave evidence that this had been the first time he had heard that the defendant was willing to hand over the password to the device.
Giving an update in the case, he said: “Police have had a positive find on one of the hard drives which were seized; the complainant’s phone has been triaged and the defendant’s phone has now been unlocked”.
He confirmed to the court that it was hoped a full file would be ready within four to six weeks.
Mr Downey stated: “On Monday I sent a message to the prosecution regarding the nature of the material found on the hard drive but am yet to get a reply.
“The way this has been handled has led to further delay and my client will abide by any conditions, he has already spent eight month in prison as a result of this.”
Deputy District Judge Sean O’Hare said: “I am satisfied that the delay in the case has been caused by the prosecution not going to Mr Downey, which was always going to end in disaster.
“But I don’t think the delay is sufficient to warrant a change in circumstances, however, I do expect there to be rapid progress on the next appearance.”
The case was adjourned until November 7.