- WARNING: Report contains distressing details
A Belfast man who inflicted life-changing injuries on a woman with a claw hammer during a violent sex attack has been jailed for 11 years.
The victim, who is now 25, has been left with permanent injuries as a result of the assault which occurred in her home in the Glenabbey area of Londonderry on the night of 3 October 2014.
As a result of the injuries inflicted on her by 22-year-old Aaron Hyland, from Katherine's Road in the Ballymurphy area of Belfast, the victim may never be able to conceive and she now wears a colostomy bag.
Judge Philip Babington described the violence perpetrated by Hyland against his victim as sickening.
"The defendant showed her absolutely no mercy in his use of this weapon. The violence used was quite sickening and it is difficult to imagine how the defendant behaved as he did", he said.
Judge Babington said the attack on the victim occurred after she and Hyland returned to her home after they had both taken diazepam tablets and consumed large amounts of alcohol.
After being called to her home by Hyland, the ambulance service found her naked on her bed and bleeding heavily.
A blood stained claw hammer was recovered and there was a great deal of blood in the bedroom and in the bathroom to where Hyland had dragged his critically ill victim.
The woman was rushed to Altnagelvin Hospital and such was the nature of her internal injuries, that initially surgeons thought she would not survive. Part of her bowel had to be removed during life-saving surgery.
Hyland was arrested at the scene and he told the police that he and his victim had engaged in consensual sexual activity.
He denied using the claw hammer to inflict the injuries on his unconscious victim, but on the morning of his trial on 7 November of last year, he pleaded guilty to causing her grievous bodily harm with intent.
A charge of rape was allowed to remain on the books not to be proceeded with without the permission of the court or of the High Court.
Judge Babington said very considerable force was used by Hyland to cause the injuries to his victim who because of her unconscious condition could not give her consent. He said the surgeons have stated that a full recovery is not anticipated.
The judge said he noted from a pre-sentence report that Hyland, who had 67 previous criminal convictions, thought about his actions every day and was remorseful for inflicting the injuries on his victim.
However he added he was sceptical about Hyland's remorse but accepted that had he not called ambulance paramedics to the victim's home, she would probably have died through blood loss.
He said Hyland carried out quite terrible assaults on his victim's most intimate areas.
"It was in some ways akin to rape albeit with the handle of a hammer," he said.
"The offending is also aggravated by the fact that the victim was unconscious through a mixture of drink, prescription drugs and cannabis. She was in no position to offer any resistance at all
"This is a case of a most serious nature where the defendant has caused very serious injuries to a young woman who is now aged 25.
"She has been left with life changing injuries. Investigations are still being made in this regard but as the prosecution counsel says the outlook is somewhat pessimistic. It is also felt she will have difficulty in conceiving children."
Sentencing Hyland, Judge Babington said: "If you had not pleaded guilty but had been found guilty by a jury, I would have imposed a sentence of 14 years imprisonment."