A MAN who raped a young woman in Belfast after she became separated from her friends following a night out has been jailed.
Stephen Dalton, 39, from Belfast was sentenced to six years and six months at Laganside Crown Court on Thursday.
He will serve half of his sentence on licence, which one MLA described as 'far too lenient'.
According to UTV, Dalton targeted the then 26-year-old woman as she walked along a footpath by the River Lagan on September 10, 2021.
They walked together for a short time before separating, however, Dalton followed the victim before sexually assaulting and raping her on a bench.
When a cyclist intervened, Dalton claimed he was trying to help the victim, however, the witness called the PSNI due to the woman's vulnerable state.
Speaking after the sentencing, Detective Constable Grant of the PSNI commended the person who came to the woman's aid.
"Stephen Dalton took advantage of a vulnerable young woman who became separated from her friends," he said.
"His actions were callous, with total disregard to consent.
"There is no defence for disregarding sexual consent. Without consent, it is rape.
"We would like to commend a passer-by who intervened, and the victim for her bravery in working with Detectives throughout the investigation."
Dalton will serve three years and three months in custody and three years and three months on licence.
He will be placed on the Sex Offenders Register indefinitely and will also be subjected to a Sexual Offences Prevention Order for 10 years.
Taking to social media, UUP leader Doug Beattie hit out at the sentencing.
He posted on Twitter: "Really poor — three years behind bars is far too lenient."