A 36-year-old Co Mayo man has been sentenced to four years in prison, with the final 18 months suspended, after pleading guilty to the sexual assault of a woman in Co Galway in 2001.

Galway Circuit Criminal Court heard that the man was arrested in January 2002 by gardaí in Galway city.

During questioning, he admitted his role in the assault and was subsequently charged.

However, he failed to show up for a court hearing in January 2003 and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest.

This remained in place until the accused handed himself in to gardaí last June. He has been in custody since then.

The court was told that the victim had fought back when the accused approached her in Galway city centre, on 10 December 2001. She kicked out when he grabbed her and fled the scene.

The attacker approached the woman again in a nightclub the following day.

In a victim impact statement read to the court she detailed the "profoundly negative" effect the incident had on her.

The victim described how she became withdrawn and suffered from anxiety and stress.

Judge Rory McCabe said she had shown courage and fortitude in dealing with the attack and its aftermath.

He noted favourable probation reports on the accused and his expressions of remorse but he pointed out that the man had fled the jurisdiction and had prolonged the suffering of his victim as a result.

The judge said he was in no doubt that a significant custodial sentence was warranted.

He imposed a four-year prison term, backdated to the time of the accused's arrest last year.

The final 18 months of the sentence have been suspended for five years, after the man entered into a bond of good behaviour.

He will be placed on the sex offender's register.