Belfast Telegraph

Former DUP man loses rape appeal

Judges rule seven-year term imposed on former councillor was justified

A former unionist councillor jailed for raping a vulnerable woman has failed to have his seven-year jail term reduced.

The Court of Appeal ruled that the sentence imposed on William Wilkinson was justified because of aggravating features in the sexual assault.

A panel of three senior judges also refused to authorise an attempt to bring a challenge to his conviction before the Supreme Court in London. They pointed out that he knew his victim had been ill earlier on the night of the attack and compounded his offence by trying again to have sex against her will soon after.

Wilkinson (34), formerly of Tully Road, Portglenone, Co Antrim, was jailed for seven years for rape and attempted rape in August 2008.

The former councillor in Ballymena, who was a DUP member until leaving in protest at the party’s decision to share power with Sinn Fein, claimed the woman had consented to sexual intercourse.

The assault happened after the pair had been out drinking together in a bar and north coast nightclub.

During the trial, the woman said she grabbed a bedside phone and dialled 999 as the attack was carried out on her. A recording of the call was played to the jury and included her repeatedly saying: “Get off me.”

Wilkinson denied any 999 call happened during sexual activity between the pair and claimed the woman made it when she was alone.

He alleged that it was staged to get him out of the house following a row between them.

Following a failed attempt to have his conviction quashed, Wilkinson's legal team yesterday argued that the seven-year sentence was manifestly excessive.

His barrister argued that too much emphasis had been placed on an incident earlier on the night of the rape where the woman fainted while she was out with Wilkinson.

But Lord Justice Girvan ruled that the trial judge had got it right, with the attempted rape classed as an aggravating feature.

“The victim clearly was a vulnerable individual,” he said.

“It was clear to the defendant that the victim had been ill earlier on, not very long before these events that evening.

“That was the situation in which the defendant found himself, in which he insisted on having sexual intercourse with her against her will.”

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