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Derry man fails in bid to overturn conviction for raping unconscious woman beaten so badly she suffered brain injury

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A man jailed for raping and trying to choke an unconscious woman who was beaten so badly that she suffered a brain injury has failed in a legal bid to overturn his conviction.

Defence lawyers claimed Shaun Hegarty’s past sexual offending was wrongly disclosed to the jury who found him guilty of attacking the latest victim, in an ordeal where she described waking up at his flat in Derry with a rope around her neck.

But the Court of Appeal ruled on Monday that details of the previous rape committed nine years earlier were correctly introduced at his trial because of the significant similarities.

Lady Chief Justice Dame Siobhan Keegan said: “We reject submissions that this evidence was admitted only to bolster a weak case.”

Hegarty, 30, is serving a 20-year prison sentence for carrying out the latest rape in April 2019.

The woman was discovered by members of the public after collapsing on the city’s Northland Road, with facial injuries and her hands smeared in blood.

She recalled having been at Hegarty’s apartment and taking some drinks before passing out.

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When she came round again, lying on a mattress on a concrete floor, the rope was around her neck, the court heard.

She spent a week in hospital for treatment to a traumatic brain injury and facial fractures assessed as being caused by blunt force, such as a fist.

Hegarty, of Balliniska Heights, claimed the pair had engaged in consensual “rough sex”, and that she hurt herself by walking into a toilet door.

But following a trial at Derry Crown Court he was found guilty of raping, attempting to choke and intentionally causing grievous bodily harm to the woman.

Jurors also heard how he had been previously jailed for raping another woman in 2010.

Appealing the latest conviction, Hegarty’s barrister argued that the complainant’s credibility was undermined by inconsistencies in her version of events.

He told the three-judge panel that no stupefying substances, syringes or rope was discovered at the defendant’s home.

Counsel also challenged the decision to allow bad character evidence at the trial, and the timing of its introduction.

Significant circumstantial and factual differences existed between two alleged rapes committed nine years apart, it was contended.

But Dame Siobhan described the approach taken at Hegarty’s trial as “impeccable”.

She said: “Clearly, the prosecution was correct to apply to admit the evidence on the basis of the two similarities - namely that the complainants were in a state of unconsciousness and had clothing removed. This was relevant to a matter in issue.”

Rejecting all grounds of challenge, the Lady Chief Justice confirmed: “In our view this conviction is safe. We therefore refuse leave to appeal and dismiss the application.”

A separate bid by Hegarty to reduce his 20-year jail term will be heard in the autumn.


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