A 25-year-old man who befriended a woman separated from her friends during a hen party in Galway city before repeatedly raping and beating her in his flat has been given a 15-year sentence.
The young woman, who feared for her life, managed to escape from a bathroom window after an ordeal lasting several hours and ran completely naked to a nearby house for help.
Louis Sheils, formerly of Clifton Crescent, Newcastle, Galway, fled the flat before gardai arrived but was arrested two days later in Killarney with sterling currency and a bus ticket to Belfast in his possession.
Sheils pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to rape, oral rape and false imprisonment of the girl at his rented accommodation on June 5, 2011. He has been in custody since his arrest two days later. Sheils has three previous convictions including assault.
Mr Justice Paul Carney said the case was “one of the worst of its type to come before the court” and merited a sentence of 15 years on the rape charges. He suspended the final three years after taking the mitigating factors into account.
Mr Justice Carney imposed an eight-year concurrent sentence on the false imprisonment charge. He declared the man a sex offender as required by law and ordered 18 months’ post-release supervision.
In her victim impact statement, the woman said she felt that Sheils was not going to let her go: "I fought for my life that night." She said she has been "scarred for life" by the image of her beaten face in the bathroom mirror during the attack.
She said she did not know what the rest of her life would hold, but after a celebration with friends had led to such a horrific episode, she felt the experience has left her a changed person.
The woman said she suffers recurring nightmares, panic attacks, low moods, anger and paranoia.
Conor Devally SC, prosecuting, said the Director of Public Prosecutions’ view was that the parameters of the offence were “at the very highest level”.
Sheils is a UK national who moved to Corofin, Co Clare, with his family 17 years ago. He moved to Ennis in 2006 before living at various addresses in Galway. He was unemployed at the time of the offence and in receipt of job seekers allowance.
Michael O’Higgins SC, defending, handed in a number of testimonials on behalf of Sheils, who has been diagnosed with the autism spectrum disorder Aspergers syndrome. He also submitted a letter of apology from his client.
Sheils said in the letter he was “very sorry” and that it had taken him time to come to terms with what he done and he accepted he must be punished.
Counsel said Sheils was making “useful reliance” on the educational opportunities available in prison.
Mr O’Higgins said Sheils has faced up fairly and squarely to his misconduct and is insistent that he can learn and is capable of rehabilitation. He said other “respectable parties” had also expressed the view that Sheils could come out the other side.
He submitted that Sheils’ offending on the night was “tempered by some humanity” when he fetched some frozen peas from the fridge for his victim.
Mr O’Higgins said there was scope for a serious sentence to be imposed but one which gives some opportunity for rehabilitation, a path on which he said Sheils has already taken the first steps.