A man who inflicted a ‘forceful and violent’ sexual assault on a young woman who fell asleep in a taxi on her way home has been jailed for three years.
Mark Patterson preyed on the woman as she slept in a seven-seater taxi while returning from a hen night with friends.
Patterson, 35, had been in the same nightclub as the woman and her friends and had received a lift from Derry back to the Co Donegal village of Lifford in the early hours of January 21st, 2018.
The young woman told Letterkenny Circuit Court how she awoke to find Patterson’s fingers inside of her.
The terrified woman fled from the taxi and along with her friends she reported the matter at Lifford Garda station.
Detective Garda Eoin Waters outlined the details of the attack which took place around 3am on the morning in question.
Detective Waters said that when the woman woke up close to home she realised Patterson had inserted his fingers into her vagina without her consent.
She shouted at the taxi-driver to stop and the shocked woman told her friend what had happened and went to the Garda station.
The victim was taken to a Sexual Assault Treatment Unit, had her clothing taken for forensic examination and was examined by a clinical nurse.
Detective Waters said he spent a number of months trying to contact Patterson who lives across the border in Sion Mills, Co Tyrone.
He finally came to Letterkenny Garda station on April 16th, 2018 but denied he had touched the woman physically at all.
However, DNA samples taken from Patterson later proved a match from samples taken from the woman’s underwear.
Giving her victim impact statement, the woman said she is still physically ill every time she relives the nightmare of being attacked.
She spoke of her “utter shock” at waking up to find her dress pulled up and the accused inside of her.
She bravely addressed Patterson saying his life had continued while she continued to live a nightmare.
She said “No matter how many times I wash I will never be able to get what you did off me.”
The woman said she has a number of brothers and was used to the company of men but can no longer trust men after what happened to her.
She added how she had to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases and was even offered birth control after what she had been through.
She added “Nobody sees the emotional burden. I will have to carry this burden for the rest of my life.”
Barrister for Patterson, Mr Shane Costello, SC, said his client, who was on a stag night and had been drinking, had no memory of what he had done.
“He initially wanted to contest the matter because he could not accept that he violated a young woman like he did,” said the barrister.
However, when confronted with the DNA evidence he has now accepted what he did and was utterly remorseful.
He added that his client had lost his job after the incident became known and that he was truly sorry for what he had done.
Passing sentence Judge John Aylmer said Patterson took advantage of his victim whom he said was asleep and vulnerable.
He added that judging by the injuries of which evidence was heard there was “a particularly forceful and violent digital penetration of the victim.”
The Judge said that but for the recovery of DNA evidence of the accused as well as a European arrest warrant a prosecution may have been difficult.
He placed the attack in the mid-range of such offences and one which merited a sentence of four years.
However, on mitigation Patterson had pleaded guilty, has a good work history, is deeply ashamed and remorseful for what he did and was considered a low risk of reoffending.
For those reason and others, Judge Aylmer suspended the final 12 months of the sentence meaning Patterson will serve three years in prison.