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Behind bars Man jailed for three and a half years for sexually assaulting wife in Galway

The couple were living rough in Galway city, sleeping in doorways and in a tent in a wooded area in the city, the court heard.

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Woman crying. Picture posed

Woman crying. Picture posed

Woman crying. Picture posed

A homeless man who forced his wife to go to a wooded area with him before sexually assaulting her has been jailed for three and a half years.

The 42-year-old man, who cannot be named to protect the anonymity of his 53-year-old victim, was found guilty by a jury of two counts of sexually assaulting his wife and one count of assault causing her harm in Galway city on October 13, 2017.

The jury in the Central Criminal Court trial, which sat in Castlebar, Co Mayo last September, was unable to reach a verdict on the final count of rape on the indictment.

The Director of Public Prosecutions subsequently dropped the rape charge with the support of the victim, who did not wish to go through a retrial, his sentence hearing was previously told.

Garda John White told the court that the man and woman, who are originally from Romania, married in 2015 and moved to Ireland in 2017.

They were living rough in Galway city, sleeping in doorways and in a tent in a wooded area in the city, the court heard.

On the night in question, the woman decided to sleep in the grounds of a church with some other homeless women in order to stay away from the man, who had been drinking heavily.

However, at 5.25am the following morning, he came to the church and woke the woman up. Witnesses told the trial the man was “out of control” and behaving “like a mad man”. He told the woman to come with him to a nearby wooded area.

On the way to the wooded area, the man was caught on CCTV footage headbutting the woman in the shoulder, causing her to fall against a wall. This footage was shown to the jury during the trial.

He also threatened to “cut her into pieces and throw her in the ocean”, Gerard Clarke SC, prosecuting, said.

The man stopped at a shop to buy coffee and told some people outside to make sure the woman didn't leave, the court heard. He then took her to the wooded area and sexually assaulted her. He repeatedly slapped her face during the incident.

After he fell asleep, the woman managed to escape and made her way to a garda station.

In a victim impact statement read out in court by counsel, the woman said she still feels “a huge sense of shame and humiliation”.

“Up to then, I thought he really loved me,” she said. “Even afterwards I tried to explain away what he did to me.”

The court heard the woman reunited with the man some months after the incident before they separated again. He has been in custody since April 2019.

The woman said the man's actions had a “profound effect” on her. She said she has trouble sleeping, has frequent nightmares, is nervous and keeps to herself. She said she is now working and “very happy” about this as work is important to her.

She said she made the right choice to come forward about her husband's abuse and she thanked the gardaí for their help.

The man has 24 previous convictions in Ireland, mostly for public disorder and begging offences, the court heard. He has a number of more serious convictions in the UK, including battery of a former partner, harassment and stalking.

Paul Flannery SC, defending, said his client was quite drunk at the time and had a limited recollection of the events of that night.

Ms Justice Carmel Stewart said the woman had “agreed to come to Ireland with the promise of a better life, which unfortunately did not happen.”

She said the man “abused his position of trust as her husband”. The judge handed down a four and a half year sentence, but suspended the final year on a number of conditions. She backdated the sentence to when the man went into custody.

Ms Justice Steward said she wanted to commend the woman for her “bravery in coming forward”.

“I'm delighted you have found employment and I wish you every happiness and success in your future life,” she said.

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