A SCIENTIST with a “brilliant academic mind” who had the potential to do "incredibly important work" has been jailed for rape.

Joseph McKeown, 23, was hoping to start a PhD course at the University of York next month, York Crown Court heard.

Instead the biophysicist, of Heworth, who got a first class degree with distinction, is starting five and a half years in prison for raping and sexually assaulting a woman.

She told the court she had come close to killing herself as a result of his actions.

McKeown’s barrister Julian Goode handed references from York academics with doctorates, saying: “They support the defendant returning to the university post release. It is however, not their decision.

“This defendant has a brilliant academic mind”.

Judge Simon Hickey told McKeown about the rape: “This was persistent. She made it quite clear on a number of occasions she didn’t want it and you persisted.”

He jailed McKeown for five and a half years, put him on the sex offenders’ register for life, banned him from ever working with vulnerable people and banned him from contacting the victim in any way for life.

McKeown, of Hawthorn Street, Heworth, pleaded guilty to rape and sexual assault.

In a personal statement, the victim said: “Both the pain and anger that I felt then, I feel now, but more intensely. They are not subsiding and I feel almost powerless.”

Mr Goode said McKeown had the potential to do “incredibly important work that will assist the public generally”.

A university spokesman said after the case: “For safeguarding and duty of care reasons, the university requires prospective students to disclose any unspent criminal convictions so it can assess whether admission can be granted.

“The university reserves the right to cancel or withdraw admission upon disclosure of such convictions. The safety and wellbeing of our staff and students is of paramount importance.”