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Ballymena councillor gets seven years for rape

By Victoria O'Hara

A Ballymena councillor jailed for seven years for raping a woman in her own home was told by a judge he has lost both his reputation and livelihood “by his own actions”.

Sentencing William Wilkinson of Tully Road in Portglenone yesterday at Antrim Crown Court Judge Geoffrey Millar said the 33-year-old’s professional and personal life was “lying in tatters”.

Wilkinson, once regarded a rising political star in the DUP, was convicted at a trial in May, but is planning to appeal.

He had claimed the sex with the woman in August 2008, who was described as a casual acquaintance, had been consensual.

But he had more than 20 injuries to his face and body which were consistent with scratch marks caused by someone's nails.

The court was told that he and the woman had engaged in sexual activity once or twice a week despite Wilkinson being engaged to someone else.

The jury agreed that the injuries had been inflicted when the woman fought him away in self-defence.

It also emerged in court yesterday that the victim had sustained a fractured skull in a previous abusive relationship that had left her “deeply distrustful” of men.

It was disclosed that Wilkinson knew the woman was vulnerable following this incident.

Prosecuting barrister Richard Weir QC said the victim was still experiencing difficulties caused by the attack two years ago.

A United Unionist Coalition councillor, Wilkinson originally held a council seat for the DUP but left the party three years ago.

He first came to prominence through his work with the south Armagh victims group FAIR.

Defence lawyer John McCrudden QC said he had been considered a “leading citizen” from Portglenone whose “world has come crashing down”.

He added that his 71-year -old mother who was now in remission from cancer feared she would not see her son again outside of prison.

Arthur Baxter, from the First Presbyterian Church in Portglenone, described him as an “upright man of the highest integrity”.

The Minister who said he knew Wilkinson since he was eight adding that he was “totally shocked and dismayed” by his lifestyle choices. But he said that in conversations with him since he was charged he “consistently and adamantly maintained he is not guilty”.

On the night of the attack Wilkinson had drunk beer and vodka and was three times above the legal drink-drive limit. The victim was two times over the limit. He had claimed that a disagreement was sparked about him wanting to drink more.

He also claimed that the victim had “stage-managed” a 999 call to police in a bid to have him removed from her home.

Passing sentence Judge Millar said: “Inevitably this has led to his professional and personal life lying in tatters. By his own actions he has lost his reputation and livelihood.

“I must proceed to sentence on the basis that the defendant is unrepentant, devoid of remorse and lacking any basis for credit with regard to remission of sentence.”

He was sentenced to seven years for rape and seven years for attempted rape to run concurrently. The judge also imposed a Sexual Offenders Prevention Order against him for seven years which bans him from having contact with the victim and which prohibits him from entering any intimate relationships without disclosing his convictions.

He also ordered Wilkinson to sign the police sex offenders register.

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