MLA calls for review of ‘lenient’ sentence handed down to football coach who sexually groomed child

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An East Antrim MLA has written to the Director of Public Prosecutions asking for a review of the sentence handed down to a youth football coach from Larne who was jailed for two years for grooming a 13-year-old girl and later having sex with her.

Ulster Unionist representative John Stewart said the sentence imposed on 34-year-old John Workman was “neither a sufficient punishment nor a deterrent.”

At Antrim Crown Court last week, Workman, from Craigyhill, pleaded guilty to one charge of meeting a child following sexual grooming and three of sexual activity involving penetration with a child.

He was jailed for two years and ordered to spend a further two years on licence. He was also ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register for the rest of his life.

But Mr Stewart said the length of the prison term imposed needs to be reconsidered.

“Judicial decisions are quite rightly kept out of the political arena, but given the seriousness of this case, I have written to the Director of Public Prosecutions asking him to consider grounds for referring the leniency of the sentence to the Court of Appeal,” he said.

“It is difficult to think of a more disgusting crime than for someone to use a position of power and responsibility to prey on children for their own depraved sexual gratification. Children need to be protected and in the eyes of many people, a two-year custodial sentence is neither a sufficient punishment nor a deterrent.

“Judges who hand out custodial sentences have legislative guidelines they have to work within, but given the level of public disquiet at the short sentence which has been imposed in this particular case, I believe the DPP needs to look at it in the public interest.

“It is obviously in everyone’s interests that the public retain confidence in the judicial system, and for that to happen, courts need to hand out punishments that fit the crime. Many people in East Antrim do not believe that has happened in this case,” Mr Stewart added.