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Wednesday, October 6, 1999 Published at 16:09 GMT 17:09 UK

UK: Northern Ireland

Man jailed in DNA assault case

Teenager was nearly beaten to beyond recognition

A Northern Ireland man has been jailed for three years for assaulting a teenager after what a judge called a "remarkable piece of scientific detection" involving DNA.

BBC NI's Mervyn Jess: Victims' disappointment at sentence
Stephen Trevor Cahoon, 27, of Rockview Terrace, Moneymore in County Londonderry, admitted a total of 15 charges against two women, including grievous bodily harm, assault and threatening to kill.

One of his victims, 18-year-old Lynn McGall from Ballymena was so badly beaten about the face she was almost unrecognisable.

Cahoon was also convicted of assaulting his partner, Samantha Brown, and threatening to kill her.

[ image: Stephen Cahoon: Brought to court on DNA evidence]
Stephen Cahoon: Brought to court on DNA evidence
In the first case of its kind in Northern Ireland, Cahoon was brought to court on DNA evidence after his chewing gum was found in Ms McGall's hair.

She could not remember what happened on the night she was beaten and left lying in a field.

But when the DNA from the gum was put into a police database, it matched Cahoon's DNA swab from an earlier assault in Cookstown, County Tyrone.

Speaking after Cahoon was sentenced at Downpatrick Crown Court, Ms McGall said he had shown "absolutely no remorse" as he was taken to the cells.

"He turned and looked at Samantha and looked at me and smirked," she said.

"I am totally devastated. It's a joke. He tried to kill us both and he gets three years. He'll be out in six months after leaving me for dead. Obviously what he did to Samantha speaks for itself. It's awful."

'Atrocious sentence'

Democratic Unionist Party Justice Spokesman, Ian Paisley junior, described the three-year sentence as "atrocious".

He said it sent out a "debilitating message" to anyone who wanted justice.

"The courts are failing the victims by sentencing that does not appear to punish severely the criminals," he said.

"Lynn McGall is fortunate to be alive. Her attack was unprecedented and vile, yet she has been given an insult by a court that has sentenced her brutal attacker to serve only a short period behind bars."

He is contacting the Lord Chancellor and Director of Public Prosecutions over the matter.

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