Rapist who slammed hammer into victim's face walks free on new weapon charge
Questions are being asked over how a convicted rapist, who smashed a hammer into the face of his terrified victim in Belfast, avoided jail after being convicted of a new charge of carrying weapons in the city.
Michael Gilbert slammed a hammer into the face of the vulnerable single mother he raped three times while ordering her to "smile" during a break-in at her north Belfast home in 2005.
The woman was also indecently assaulted twice during a frightening hour long ordeal. He had tied her up and ignored her pleas for mercy as her child slept in an adjoining bedroom.
Gilbert, who was just 15 at the time of the sickening sex attack, was last week found guilty of possessing a hammer and a knife at Bradbury Place in central Belfast following a hearing at Belfast Magistrates' Court.
But he walked free from court after District Judge Conner suspended his four-month prison sentence for one year.
The decision not to cage Gilbert (27) sparked fury given his previous sex attack convictions, which led to him being jailed for seven years.
DUP MLA Lord Morrow said he was appalled at the sentence given to Gilbert.
"This case was dealt with at Belfast Magistrates' Court, which is something of a surprise given the previous convictions and the relevance of a hammer," Lord Morrow said.
"Unfortunately, due to current legislation there is no process to appeal this woefully inadequate sentence.
"I am appalled at this sentence.
"It is a case and point of why an appeal process similar to Crown Courts for unduly lenient sentences is urgently required. I will again take this up with the Minister for Justice."
Gilbert was arrested by police on June 25 this year carrying the hammer and knife in Bradbury Place, at the heart of Belfast's Golden Mile.
Even though Gilbert had been caught red-handed by police, he pleaded not guilty to the charges.