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Belfast man jailed after causing life-threatening injuries to woman in claw hammer attack

By George Jackson

A Belfast man who caused life-threatening injuries on a woman after a claw hammer attack has been jailed for 11 years.

The victim, who is now aged 25, has been left with permanent injuries as a result of the assault which occurred in her home in the Glenabbey area of Derry on the night of October 3, 2014.

As a result of the injuries inflicted on her by Aaron Hyland, 22, 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'd both taken diazepam tablets and consumed large amounts of alcohol. Both were initially flirting with each other.

At 10.24 pm on October 3, 2014, the ambulance service were called to the victim's home by Hyland. They 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.

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 November 7 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.

Judge Babington 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 Judge Babington said he was sceptical about Hyland's remorse but accepted that had Hyland 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 which was "in some ways akin to rape".

"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," he said.

"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," he said.

Judge Babington told Hyland: "If you had not pleaded guilty but had been found guilty by a jury, I would have imposed a sentence of 14 years imprisonment."

The PSNI welcomed the sentence and paid tribute to the victim who had shown great "strength and dignity" throughout the case.

Detective Inspector Lynne Knox said: “Firstly, I would like to pay tribute to the lady in this case who has shown great strength and dignity throughout the investigation which has led to Aaron Hyland being jailed for this despicable crime.

“The Police Service of Northern Ireland take these cases extremely seriously and our officers are fully committed to finding and prosecuting those who commit such offences.

"We have dedicated officers across Northern Ireland to ensure that all such crimes are investigated, as well as providing support and information to victims about police procedures and legal proceedings. No one should have to endure such an appalling attack and I want to encourage all victims of any abuse or violence to come forward and report the matter to the police. Speak out to stop it.

“I would encourage anyone to contact their local police if they have been the victim of a crime on the non-emergency 101 or in an emergency always call 999.

“Additionally a 24-hour Domestic and Sexual Violence Helpline is available to anyone who has concerns about domestic or sexual violence, now or in the past on 0808 802 1414.”

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