By Donal McMahon
A Co Laois man has been fined £500 for attempting to pay for sexual services in Newry.
John Bergin (35) of Fassidinas New Row, Abbeyleix, is also charged with possession of class A drugs on October 18, 2020.
A charge of paying for sexual services was withdrawn.
The offences are only the second time such charges have been brought forward by the public prosecution services in Northern Ireland.
Newry magistrates heard that the PSNI observed a suspicious white Land Rover on Monaghan Street in the city at approximately 2am.
Two females were seen approaching the vehicle with one female entering into a nearby property with the accused.
Police entered the house and found a female hiding behind a door.
Bergin was questioned and admitted to making contact with the woman on the online site ‘Escort Ireland.
A search was carried out with an amount of cocaine found said to have been bought by the accused for £70 for personal use.
The defendant was arrested and during a PSNI interview admitted the offences.
Defence barrister, Kevin O’Hare said his client, who “has no record whatsoever” had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity and had been embarrassed on mainstream and social media by the incident.
“He accepts that it was wrong doing and spent a night in custody for it,” said Mr O’Hare.
He was handcuffed and taken to a bank machine in order to take out cash surety for his release.
‘The offences have attracted media attention and this has been a humiliating experience for him.
“He has learned a solitary lesson,” added the barrister.
Deputy district judge Anne Marshall alluded to the interest of the media as understandable given the context of the offending.
“This is an unusual type of offending before the court and one that does have victims,” said Ms Marshall.
“The unsavoury background of how these females come into this position including trafficking issues in some circumstances,” added the judge.
Bergin was further ordered to pay an offender’s levy and a destruction order was put in place for the drugs.