A Carlow man who raped and seriously assaulted a woman, leaving her with a permanent brain injury, has been sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy described it as a "devastating physical attack and rape" and said in his experience the offence was the most serious of its kind.

34-year-old Anthony Cassidy, from Tinryland, Carlow ,attacked his victim as she was walking to a shop in the early hours of the morning.

He raped her and severely beat her before dumping her unconscious body on the outskirts of a town.

The woman, who was in her 50s, was found 12 hours later and has no memory of the attack. The owner of a premises outside the town was entering the property, when he saw a shoe on the right side of the kerb. He then saw a leg and realised this was a body.

Her injuries were so severe she has been left with life permanent brain injury and will need help with all her basic needs for the rest of her life.

Extensive CCTV footage tracked Cassidy's movements to and from where he dumped his victim. It showed a man dragging another person to the location where the victim was discovered 12 hours later.

He was identified as a suspect and DNA later linked him to the crime.

Cassidy pleaded guilty to rape and assault causing serious harm of the woman on 25 June 2017. He has 34 previous convictions, including soliciting for sex in the UK and two assaults in this country.

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The victim was found unresponsive with her top pulled up to her collar bone and her trousers partially removed.

Subsequent medical reports showed she had been beaten around the head and neck area, leaving her with serious injuries.

She spent weeks in intensive care in hospital and was receiving treatment for five months.

Doctors said while she had made progress initially, there is little prospect of further improvement in her condition.

 She needs help to wash, dress and use the bathroom and cannot move outside the home without assistance.

The judge also described as impressive a comment made by the woman in her victim impact statement.

 While she described herself as a "broken woman", she said she would now "scrape together the little bit of dignity I have left and will try to make the most of my life."

The judge also remarked on the strength of character shown by the woman's daughter, who he said was coping as best she could.

He quoted from her victim impact statement which said her mother was "now a shadow of the strong independent woman she had been".

She added that "Anthony Cassidy has ruined our lives and we have all been damaged. The cracks are there but we are strong and we won't let you ruin our lives anymore than you have done."

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy said without the mitigating factors of a guilty plea and apparent genuine remorse he would have imposed a life sentence.

After his arrest Cassidy initially denied meeting the victim, telling gardaí: "I wouldn't rape a woman, I'd pay for it in a brothel before I'd do that".

When DNA evidence linking Cassidy to the victim came through, he then admitted hitting the woman about the head with his fist but said he could not recall any sexual encounter.

In a previous hearing a Victim Impact Statement was read out by the woman's daughter.

She described how she was now completely dependent on her family for assistance.

"I need so much help in all areas of my personal care, (Cassidy) has taken my privacy then and now," she said.

She described the ongoing physical pain, immobility and night terrors following the attack, saying: "Every time I close my eyes my assailant haunts me".

"Beating me nearly to death was bad, but raping me makes me feel used and dirty," the woman stated.

"He left me there to die, he wasn't sorry, he could have left my body to be found or rang anonymously," she added.

Addressing Cassidy at the end of her statement, the woman said: "Your act of pure evil stole so much for me but after today I am closing the door on this."

The woman's daughter told the court that the first time she heard her mother whispering her name following the attack was "like winning the lotto a thousand times over."

Addressing Cassidy, she said that her mother has been given "a life sentence of feeling dirty, feeling shame, feeling not good enough".

The court heard Cassidy had written a letter of apology to the woman in which he "prayed to God" he could go back in time and undo his actions.

He also said he realised "no words can undo the damage that I caused you and your family".

He said he prayed someday the victim could forgive him and that she would make a full recovery.

Defence lawyers had asked the judge to take into consideration Cassidy's genuine remorse and the fact his early guilty plea had not compounded the victim's ordeal.

The court heard that Director of Public Prosecutions deemed the assault offence as on the "exceptional upper level" of the scale of seriousness and the case warranted a sentence above 12 and a half years and up to life in prison.