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Claw hammer thug jailed for sickening assault on young woman left with 'life-changing injuries'

By George Jackson

A man who violated a woman with the handle of a claw hammer has been jailed for 11 years in a case which a judge said was akin to rape.

The victim, who is now aged 25, was subjected to the horrifying assault by Aaron Hyland at her home in the Glenabbey area of Londonderry on the night of October 3, 2014.

The victim has been left with permanent injuries - she may never be able to conceive and she now wears a colostomy bag.

Judge Philip Babington described the violence perpetrated by Hyland (22), from Katherine's Road in the Ballymurphy area of Belfast, as sickening.

It came as he passed down sentence yesterday at the Crown Court in Londonderry.

"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.

At 10.24pm on October 3, 2014, the ambulance service was 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.

She had numerous internal ruptures and tears, and part of her bowel had to be removed during the lifesaving 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 November 7 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, the judge 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.

The judge said: "It 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."

The judge 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."

Last night questions were raised as to why the rape charge was left on the books.

However, it is understood the decision was made on the basis that Hyland pleaded guilty to grievous bodily harm with intent after consultation with the victim and her family, who was spared the ordeal of a trial.

It is understood the PPS believed this gave them the strongest chance of a conviction.

Commenting yesterday, Detective Inspector Lynne Knox from Public Protection Branch 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."

She said the PSNI took such shocking cases "extremely seriously".

She added: "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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