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Two Northern Ireland men jailed for sexual assaults on vulnerable women

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Both men were jailed following an appeal (stock photo)

Both men were jailed following an appeal (stock photo)

Both men were jailed following an appeal (stock photo)

Two men are to be jailed for separate "predatory" sexual assaults on vulnerable women during nights out, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

Judges ruled that the combined community service and probation sentences originally imposed on Simon Cash and Richard George Byrne were unduly lenient.

Both men were ordered to present themselves at Maghaberry Prison next week to begin substituted 18-month terms.

Cash, a 23-year-old former student nurse from Donaghadee, Co Down, was convicted of sexually assaulting a woman in December 2018.

He targeted his victim in a taxi after joining her group of friends on a night out in Bangor.

Although CCTV footage of the incident was studied privately by the appeal judges, they declined to play it in court in front of the woman and her family.

In January this year Cash was given 100 hours community service, three years probation and placed on the sex offenders' register.

The same month 32-year-old Byrne, of Glen Mhacha in Armagh, received 80 hours community service, two years probation and put on the register for sexually assaulting another woman while she slept.

She had been attacked after going to bed in a house following a night out drinking in August 2015.

The Public Prosecution Service referred both cases back to the Court of Appeal, claiming unduly lenient sentence had been handed down.

Liam McCollum QC, for the PPS, argued that the stating point in the process should have been two years imprisonment, before taking account of any aggravating or mitigating factors.

He also stressed the need for judicial guidance on sentencing in similar future cases.

During the hearing Lord Justice Treacy said: "There's something very predatory about approaching someone asleep or under the influence of drink.

"There's a degree of premeditation, the reason the victim is selected is that the (perpetrator) thinks they can get away with it because of the state that person is in."

Mr McCollum was asked if the public element to the assault carried out by Cash was a further aggravating feature.

Counsel replied: "It has a degrading element for the victim, because they will remember this happened in a public place with other people who might have seen it."

Following submissions the court granted the prosecution appeal.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan confirmed that substitute 18-month sentences, split between half in custody and half on licence, are to be imposed on both men.

Directing them to appear at prison by 10am on Monday, he warned that any failure will mean they are unlawfully at large.

Belfast Telegraph