August 2022

County Antrim man jailed for offences against nine teenage girls

A man from County Antrim has been jailed for a series of offences against nine teenage girls.

Thomas Macauley, 21, pleaded guilty to a total of 34 offences.

They included possessing and distributing indecent images of a child and engaging in sexual activity with a child.

He also admitted charges of blackmail, harassment and making threats to kill, as well as common assault.

The court heard that Macauley met the teenagers on social media and persuaded them to send him pictures in various states of undress.

He then used these images to either blackmail or harass the girls and also sent indecent images to the parents of two of the teenagers.

Macauley, whose address is the subject of a reporting restriction, appeared at Belfast Crown Court via video-link from Maghaberry Prison.

He was handed a sentence of three years and four months by Judge Patricia Smyth, who branded the case “shocking”.

The judge divided the sentence between 16 months in prison followed by two years on licence.

All the offences were committed over a three-month period between August and November 2018, when Macauley was 17.

A Crown barrister said Macauley’s offending was against nine teenage girls.

“His modus operandi seems to have been either to make contact using one of the social media platforms and establish some sort of relationship or rapport with these young ladies, and in some cases he met them personally,” the barrister said.

“He would then ask that they send him photographs of themselves in various states of undress, including nudity.

“Having obtained that from them, he went on to threaten that if they didn’t do X, Y and Z he would publish them or send them to their parents or friends.”

He said Macauley carried out his threat to send the images on several occasions, and that the period of offending “wasn’t just a flash in the pan” but was “sustained”.

The prosecutor also spoke of the vulnerability of the teenage girls and the fear instilled in them by Macauley’s threats.

Judge Smyth said she had considered defence reports on Macauley, including a probation report and one compiled by an educational psychologist.

Macauley had stated he “felt angry” after being rejected by girls and “wanted to humiliate them so they would feel as bad as I did”.

He also admitting using social media to meet young girls, and to gaining pleasure from their domination and suffering.

The judge said she had read the “distressing and disturbing” victim impact statements.

“The anxiety and stress that each of these young victims has suffered is impossible to calculate,” she said.

“The fear that private images will be shared with others is a reality that haunts many.”

Judge Smyth said the extended period on licence would allow Macauley to undertake the probation service’s specialised assessment and therapeutic work.

Macauley was also made the subject of a five-year sexual offences prevention order and was placed on the Sex Offenders Register for an indefinite period