A man convicted of ‘one of the very worst cases’ of serious sexual assault to appear at Derry Crown Court has been jailed for 20 years.
Shaun Hegarty, whose address was given on court papers as Balliniska Heights, was convicted of two charges of rape, grievous bodily harm with intent, attempted choking with intent to commit an indictable offence and breaching a sexual offences prevention order.
The offences were committed between March 16 and April 8, 2019.
The victim, who sustained a number of injuries during the sexual and physical assault, remembers little about what happened to her but has had a number of difficulties as a result.
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She now seldom goes out and is not inclined to leave her home unless she is accompanied by relatives.
The court heard that the victim had met 29-year-old Hegarty at a friend’s house on St. Patrick’s Day, had kept in contact and agreed to meet up with each other.
On the night in question, the victim went to Hegarty’s flat and after consuming a couple of drinks she ‘passed out’.
She woke to find herself on a mattress on a concrete floor and there was a rope around her neck.
The victim left the flat and was later found lying on a banking on the Northland Road in a ‘bad state’.
Members of the public who stopped to help the woman noticed injuries to her face and that her hands were smeared with blood.
She was taken to hospital and was found to have sustained a subarachnoid haemorrhage on the left side of her brain, a fracture to her jaw, swelling to her left eye and multiple abrasions around her neck.
The victim was also examined by the Rowan Centre and evidence of a very aggressive sexual and physical assault were found.
Police attended Hegarty’s home and had to strike the door on a number of occasions with an ‘enforcer implement’ before he opened it.
There was evidence he had just had a bath or shower and that some effort had been made to clean what appeared to be blood in the flat.
During police interview, Hegarty denied assaulting the victim in any way and said that any sexual activity was consensual.
The court heard the 29-year-old continues to maintain his denials and has been assessed as posing a significant risk of serious harm.
Passing sentence, Judge Philip Babington said the offending was aggravated by the sexual and physical violence, which he described as ‘gratuitous’. He added that the attempted forensic clean up and Hegarty’s very relevant previous record were further aggravating factors.
The judge said: “This case sadly is one of the very worst cases to come before this court involving as it does a very serious sexual assault.”
Hegarty was jailed for 20 years and the date of his release will be determined by the Parole Commissioners.
The 29-year-old will also be subject to the notification requirements of the Sexual Offences Actand to a Sexual Offences Prevention Order for an indefinite period.
As part of this order, Hegarty is prohibited from having any contact with the victim and from entering into a romantic or sexual relationship without disclosing his criminal record.
After the sentence was passed, Senior Public Prosecutor Kirsten McKevitt commended the victim for her bravery.
Ms McKevitt said: “Firstly I want to commend the bravery of the victim in this case for coming forward to report her traumatic experience to police.
The PPS Serious Crime Unit worked closely with the PSNI to build a strong prosecution case, which resulted in 29 year old Shaun Hegarty being found guilty of two counts of rape, grievous bodily harm with intent, attempting to choke with intent to commit an indictable offence and breaching a previously imposed Sexual Offences Prevention Order.
“This was a particularly violent and horrific attack in which the victim suffered significant physical injuries. The prosecution case included the victim’s account, witness statements and medical evidence gathered by specially trained staff from the Rowan Sexual Assault Referral Centre. PPS prosecutors worked with these staff and police to ensure the victim was treated with sensitivity and respect at every stage of the process.”
The prosecutor added: “The PPS is committed to working with our criminal justice partners to prosecute robustly sexual offences where the Test for Prosecution is met.
“We understand that going through the criminal justice system can be particularly difficult for victims of sexual offences. I want to encourage them to report their experience to police and reassure them that they will have the benefit of a dedicated prosecution team.”