Man who attacked pregnant girlfriend to be subject of violent offences order

editorial image

A man who twice attacked his heavily pregnant girlfriend, which a judge previously said was like “something out of a horror film,” has become the first person in Northern Ireland to be hit with an interim Violent Offences Prevention Order.

If breached it can lead to a jail term of up to five years. The Order was granted at Coleraine Magistrates Court on Friday where it was heard Gary Woods (26), whose address was previously given as Clarehill Park in Aghadowey, is due to get out of Magilligan Prison on Monday but could be released as early as today (Friday).

As well as attacking his pregnant partner, the father-of-five had previous convictions against former partners and a police officer told the court in Coleraine they felt the new VOPO - which only became available in Northern Ireland on December 1 - is needed to help protect the public.

A full court hearing is due to be heard to get a full VOPO in place but on Friday District Judge Liam McNally agreed to the interim order after hearing the police officer say Woods is in their view a Category 3 risk - the highest - of re-offending.

The officer said there are currently only around five people in the community in Northern Ireland in the Category 3 bracket regarding domestic violence.

The court made an interim notification order which bans him from entering into any relationship with an adult female without verifiable disclosure as to the nature of his offending being made to that person by his Designated Risk Manager (DRM) and Social Services.

The interim order also prevents him from residing at an address without prior approval from his DRM or staying overnight at any other address or place without prior approval of the DRM and or Social Services.

He is also now allowed to possess any mobile or sim card or device capable of accessing the internet, without registering that item with his DRM, and making that device available on request for inspection by a police officer.

The interim order is in place until January 23.

In April 2015 Woods was handed a 30-month jail sentence after he admitted twice attacking his heavily pregnant girlfriend.

At Antrim Crown Court, sitting in Newtownards, he was ordered to serve 18 months in jail and the rest on supervised licence.

The attacks were described at that court by Judge Brian Sherrard as “something out of a horror film.”

Also imposing a five-year restraining order, barring Woods from contacting his victim, Judge Sherrard told him that he had great difficulty finding “any personal mitigating factors” apart from his guilty pleas.

He advised Woods that if he did not change his ways, “a far greater sentence will be the loss of family life”. Woods had earlier pleaded guilty to offences against his former partner – common assault on a date unknown between 31 August and 10 September 2013, and further offences of false imprisonment and inflicting actual bodily harm on 31 January 2014.

The Crown Court heard Woods had previous convictions for violence against former partners.

A defence lawyer told the 2015 sitting Woods had grown up in a household where violence was “the norm” which while not an excuse, was linked to his offending.

Woods was not present at Coleraine Magistrates Court on Friday where his defence solicitor Derwin Harvey said the interim order and the full order will be contested.

A lawyer representing the PSNI said Woods was due for release on Monday and they were applying for the VOPO.

A police officer who is Woods’ Designated Risk Manager told the court he was currently in Magilligan Prison and he had indicated he would not liaise with the such an Order and was not willing to say where he would be living when released.

Mr Harvey said Woods “is now exposed to five years in prison on unchallenged evidence”.

Granting the interim Order, Judge McNally said it was the first case of its kind in Northern Ireland.

He said the “catalogue of violence” by Woods put forward by the police in a 52-page document meant an interim VOPO was necessary to protect the public.