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Thug deemed a risk to women has first ever NI anti-violence order imposed

By Nevin Farrell

A high-risk offender who attacked his eight-months pregnant girlfriend has become the first person in Northern Ireland to be handed a Violent Offences Prevention Order (VOPO).

If breached it can lead to a jail term of up to five years for Gary Woods (26), whose address was given on court papers as Magilligan Prison but was previously listed as Clarehill Park, Aghadowey.

He was released from Magilligan on January 2 and was considered so dangerous to women that, before he was freed, an interim VOPO was put in place until yesterday.

A police officer told Coleraine Magistrates' Court yesterday that she felt a full VOPO - which only became available in Northern Ireland on December 1 - is needed to help protect the public.

The officer said Woods was, in the view of police, a Category 3 risk of re-offending - the highest. She said there were only five people in Northern Ireland in the Category 3 bracket for domestic violence.

The full three-year Order imposed by District Judge Peter King aims to protect the public from "serious violent harm". It bans Woods from entering into any relationship with a woman without his offending being made known to her.

It also prevents him from staying away from home without prior approval from the authorities.

He is also not allowed to possess a mobile phone or any internet device without registering it with his Designated Risk Manager (DRM), and must make that device available to police for inspection. A fourth condition is that he engages with his DRM.

In April 2015, Woods was handed a 30-month jail sentence after he admitted attacking his heavily pregnant girlfriend. He was ordered to serve 18 months in jail and the rest on supervised licence. The attack was described at the time by Judge Brian Sherrard as "something out of a horror film".

Woods had earlier pleaded guilty to common assault on his former partner in 2013, false imprisonment and inflicting actual bodily harm on January 31, 2014.

The Crown Court heard Woods had previous convictions for violence against former partners.

A PSNI officer told yesterday's court Woods had no empathy for his victims, blames them for his behaviour and minimises his offending. She believed he would re-offend if the VOPO was not in place and said police would only go in pairs to visit him.

She said his offending involved "sexual jealousy" and also had a "power" element to it, and that at least two of his previous victims were pregnant. She continued that if officers could see Woods weekly, they could monitor if he was in a relationship.

A Probation officer told the court Woods had a "long-standing hostility" towards females.

She added: "I have worked with serious violent and sexual offenders for 18 years and I have not come across an individual who is so hostile."

She said Woods had denied having contact with women but was seen leaving licensed premises with a female. After she was contacted by the authorities she terminated the relationship but Woods then posted "a semi-naked picture of this woman on social media" and sent her hundreds of text messages.

Granting the Order, Judge King said it was the first of its kind in Northern Ireland. He said he had no hesitation in granting it, especially when statements from Woods' victims were "chilling" reading even for someone like him involved in law for more than 20 years.

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