Ex-firefighter who posed as teen online avoids prison over blackmail

Jayden Haggerty, a former firefighter, was convicted of blackmailing a young woman and posing...
Jayden Haggerty, a former firefighter, was convicted of blackmailing a young woman and posing online as a teenage boy to have an explicit conversation with a 14-year-old girl. Photo: Rob Kidd
An ex-firefighter convicted of blackmail who also posed as a teenager online for explicit chats with a 14-year-old girl has avoided imprisonment.

Jayden Paul Haggerty (33) appeared in the Dunedin District Court this morning after being found guilty of the blackmail following a judge-alone trial in July, and had earlier pleaded guilty to assault in a family relationship, as well as exposing a young person to indecent material.

Judge Kevin Phillips sentenced him to four months’ community detention (7pm-6am curfew) and 12 months’ intensive supervision.

He said the impact of the offending on one woman was stark.

“He’s really ruined the life of the blackmail victim and he still dismisses it as somewhat ‘silly behaviour’ rather than criminal conduct,” he said.

The woman told the court at a hearing last year that she met the former Dunedin Airport emergency services worker through her employment at the start of 2020 and he convinced her he was single.

“I felt Jayden understood me and was patient with me,” she said.

The exchange of explicit photos was his idea, and the woman said she never foresaw they would be used against her.

When the victim discovered Haggerty was married with a third child on the way, she cut ties on some social media platforms, which angered him and prompted threats as he sought to re-establish contact, using the lewd selfies as leverage.

“You shouldn’t have crossed me . . . I’ve got nothing to lose,” the defendant said.

Judge Phillips stressed the threats were repeated by Haggerty.

“You lost that relationship because of the bucketful of lies you told . . . destroying her faith in you as a person,” he said.

The victim told the court she struggled to sleep, stopped eating and was too scared to leave the house alone.

“Jayden became unrecognisable to me. He wanted something and didn’t care about me at all. It was all about him and how it affected him,” she said.

“Having to deal with all this nearly pushed me over the edge . . . I’ve never been so scared of someone in my life.”

In March 2020, before things had reached crisis point, Haggerty created a social media account under a pseudonym.

Court documents showed he contacted a 14-year-old Levin girl, posing as a 16-year-old from Hamilton.

During the online conversation, Haggerty asked her a series of explicit questions, quizzing her on her sexual experience.

Eventually the victim blocked him.

Haggerty, in an interview with Probation, denied having sexual interest in adolescent girls.

Defence counsel Len Andersen QC said the convictions had seen his client lose his “dream job” as an airport firefighter.

Today he told the court Haggerty had also lost a subsequent job in the manufacturing industry because the employer was concerned young female staff would be uncomfortable with his presence.

Mr Andersen said the defendant needed significant help with his mental health issues.

The victim hoped her own psychological battle would not be overlooked.

“Jayden’s mental health issues came from him being cornered after being found out to be a liar and a cheat,” the woman said.

“I suffer every day because of him.”

The judge ordered Haggerty to pay her $1200.

 

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