A sex-offender who thought he was communicating sexually with a 13-year-old schoolgirl has had a jail sentence suspended on appeal and while a defence barrister accepted culpability is high it might be, “offset by medication which may have increased his inhibitions.”
Stephen Robert Clements (26) from Keenogue Road, Trillick accepted attempting to communicate sexually with a child and attempting to cause her to look at an image of sexual activity.
Offending occurred between 6 October and 1 November 2021 during an undercover sting with a police officer acting as a decoy.
Previously a defence solicitor said he intended to seek an expert report into antidepressant medication prescribed to Clements as “inappropriate conduct seems to be a recognised side-effect.”
While this was abandoned at sentencing, it resurfaced briefly at appeal.
Clements struck up communication with what he thought was a schoolgirl, referring to the profile image as “cute and pretty”.
After sending a facial image of himself, he asked her, “to be cheeky” and share a photograph in her school uniform.
On receipt of this Clements said her skirt was too long and she should undo some shirt buttons.
More images were requested, including in her PE kit with Clements stating: “Wearing less clothes would be better.”
He sent an image of himself in underwear and asked for a photograph of her breasts saying she was “hot, with an amazing body.”
More requests for images followed before Clement sent pictures of his naked genitals asking: “Is it okay if I w*** over your pic at the weekend? Have you ever played with yourself?”
When the decoy enquired: “What are you up to?”, he replied, “having a w***. What about you?”
He asked the decoy to “go to the bathroom and pull down her tights.”
The decoy blocked him when he asked if she performed oral sex would she “spit or swallow”.
Clements was arrested and accepted engaging in sexual communication with what he thought was a child.
At sentencing District Judge Bernie Kelly criticised the prosecution decision not to send the case to crown court, stating: “The maximum sentence is six months custody. That’s one of many reasons why these cases aren’t suitable to the lower court. He believed he was communicating with a child. His entire communication was beyond appropriate, yet he carried on, By law he must get a reduction for his guilty plea.”
Clements was jailed for four months and made subject to Sex-Offender Register and a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) for seven years,
He appealed this at Omagh County Court where the defence stressed: “These are serious matters and culpability is relatively high, maybe slightly offset by the fact my client was taking medication which may have increased his inhibitions during the pandemic. He is a very lonely man who did something extraordinarily stupid and ill-judged.”
The defence urged the court to commute the prison sentence to a probation order for therapeutic intervention as Clements “has suffered – quite rightly – from a degree of public shame, as these offences attract significant media attention. It’s been very embarrassing for him and his family who support him as does his long-term partner. I ask the court not to kick him when he’s down by sending him straight to prison.”
Deputy County Court Judge Duncan remarked: “These are serious offences for which the custody threshold is certainly passed. The prison sentence is entirely justified, however I consider it appropriate to suspend for three years.”
Judge Duncan rejected an application for Legal Aid after reviewing Clements’ income from his agricultural business in which he is the majority partner.