Thomas Markey was sentenced by Judge Geoffrey Miller QC, who divided the term equally between prison and supervised licence.
The judge said that despite being convicted by a jury earlier this year of raping the woman in her Bangor home in September 2020, Markey has shown no remorse and continues to maintain his innocence.
The 33-year-old father-of-two appeared for his sentencing at Downpatrick Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, via a videolink with Maghaberry.
The court heard that Markey, from Torrens Avenue in Belfast, was arrested and charged with rape following an incident involving a woman he met on the Tinder dating app.
After meeting online, Markey and the 31-year-old woman agreed to book an overnight stay at a hotel in Belfast.
The pair booked a room for September 19, 2020 and planned to have sexual intercourse for the first time whilst staying at the hotel.
Two days before the arranged overnight stay, Markey took the train from Belfast to Bangor and went to the woman’s house for drinks.
He initially planned to get the train back to Belfast that evening, but as the night progressed a decision was made that he would stay longer so they could spend more time together and he would get a taxi back to Belfast early the following morning.
Whilst in the woman’s house, she drank between eight to 10 tins of beer whilst he consumed most of a bottle of Jack Daniels.
During the trial, the jury heard that the pair “kissed and cuddled” for a short period before she went to bed and fell asleep.
In the early hours of the morning, she woke from her sleep to find Markey on top of her, having sex with her.
She told him to stop, but he continued until he ejaculated.
A taxi was called and Markey left. From the taxi, he sent her a text message at 1.37am which read: “So sorry love. Hope you’re ok. Really didn’t expect that. I really thought everything was ok but obviously not. I’m so sorry. I thought everything was ok. Hope you’re ok xxx.”
Whilst he was travelling back to Belfast in the taxi, the woman ran to a neighbour’s house. She was clearly distressed, and after telling her neighhour what had just happened, the PSNI was alerted.
The woman was spoken to by police and taken for a medical examination, and just before 4am on September 18, Markey was arrested.
During a police interview, he confirmed he met the woman on Tinder and that they had agreed to wait until the overnight hotel stay to have sex.
When asked what occurred in her home, Markey said the sexual activity between them was consensual.
He also claimed that he and the woman had sex twice, and it was only during the second time that she “became frantic” and told him to leave.
As he sentenced Markey, Judge Miller said: “The jury rejected his account and unanimously convicted him on a charge of rape.”
Noting that Markey has maintained his innocence, and has therefore displayed no remorse for his actions, the judge spoke of several aggravating factors.
This, he said, included “the fact that the offence occurred in the victim’s home and in her bed where she was entitled to feel safe”.
Judge Miller added: “It occurred in the early hours of the morning when she had been sleeping, and the defendant was a guest who abused her trust.
“She was intoxicated, had been asleep and was therefore vulnerable.
“The defendant knowingly defied and ignored her expressed refusal to have sexual intercourse with him that night.”
As well as being handed a seven-year sentence, Markey was also placed on the Sex Offenders Register for an indefinite period and was made the subject of a 10-year Sexual Offences Prevention Order.
After sentencing, PSNI Detective Sergeant Rebecca Hedley said: “This was a terrifying ordeal for the victim. Mr Markey acted callously in his actions, with total disregard to consent of the victim, leaving her shaken and with undoubtedly long-lasting trauma.
“Sexual abuse and assault of any kind is taken incredibly seriously by the PSNI. We worked with the victim who bravely came forward to us and brought her attacker before the courts today to answer for his crimes.
“She would like her bravery in speaking out about Mr Markey to encourage other potential victims of sexual crimes to come forward and break the silence about their abusers.
“We are actively seeking out those who sexually exploit, abuse or attack anyone in our communities so that we can make them amenable for their crimes.
“Please be assured that we have specially trained officers who will treat victims with sensitivity and respect – at every stage of the process.
“I would continue to encourage anyone who has experienced any form of sexual abuse or assault to contact police on 101, or in an emergency call 999.”