“Just for the Gardaí, I might not be here today” – Survivor hails new laws that could jail stalkers for 10 years


A woman who was subjected to a horrific stalker ordeal said new laws would not only help protect victims of harassment but save the state both money and vital resources.

na Ring has welcomed the introduction of rules allowing victims to obtain a civil restraining order against their stalker without the need for criminal prosecution.

The Cork woman said it was crucial Ireland used any legislative reform possible to help ‘nip such incidents in the bud’.

“That wasn’t available to me when I was being followed and harassed,” she said.

“Who knows that if it had been available the incident I was subjected to might have been nipped in the bud and a lot of anxiety and heartbreak avoided – not just for me but for everyone else involved.

“If these things are addressed at a very early stage, in many cases it will help prevent them from escalating into something much more serious and sinister.”

Ms Ring’s stalker, a former colleague who said he became obsessed with her, was arrested by Gardaí outside her home after he threatened to break into her home and rape her. He was found with a rope and a sex toy strapped to his body.

Under the legislation, victims of stalkers can seek civil restraining orders against them without criminal prosecution.

The move, welcomed by campaign groups and victims of stalking, will make it easier for victims to seek shelter sooner and more easily.

It is one of several measures that are to become law in the autumn.

Others include making stalking and non-fatal strangulation separate offences, increasing the maximum sentence for assault – one of the most common charges in domestic violence cases – from five to 10 years and expanding existing harassment.

By using civil injunctions, the government hopes stalkers can be dealt with at an earlier stage before the stalking worsens, as has been seen in some criminal cases.

The new, separate criminal offense of stalking encompasses all behavior that either induces a fear of violence in the victim or causes them serious fear and distress and has a significant impact on their daily life.

It will cover a wide range of acts, from tracking a victim, communicating with them or impersonating their identity, to encroaching on their property or pets.

Stalking can be committed in a single act and does not have to be continuous or repeated. Situations in which the victim only finds out about the stalking actions afterwards are also recorded.

The maximum sentence if convicted is 10 years.

Attorney General Helen McEntee announced the new measures, saying the civil injunctions would allow for earlier intervention to protect victims.

“Stalking is an extremely serious and intrusive crime that can cause devastating psychological distress,” she said.

“The evidence from other countries shows that the introduction of a particular stalking offense leads to greater awareness of the crime and an increase in reported and ultimately prosecuted offences. So we do that.”

The new Criminal Justice Bill 2022 will come before the Oireachtas as a priority for the resumption of the Dáil and is expected to come into force in the autumn.

Ms Ring said she believes the legislation will also help save the state money through fewer court appearances and reduced demand for Garda labour.

Since her ordeal, Ms. Ring has become a vocal campaigner to better protect victims of stalking and harassment.

She said eliminating the criminal element of obtaining a civil restraining order was a crucial step – but she said the government needed to take other measures as well.

Ms Ring said that while she was delighted at the introduction of the new legislation, she was heartbroken at the backdrop of several tragic and disturbing attacks on women in recent years.

She was subjected to a horrific ordeal, during which a former work colleague suddenly became obsessed with her and threatened to break into her home and rape her.

Her stalker, James Steele, 54, was sentenced to five years in prison at Cork Circuit Criminal Court in February 2021 after being caught outside her home
a special surveillance operation conducted by Gardaí from Youghal.

“Only for the Gardaí there is a very, very high probability that I wouldn’t be here today. I’m convinced of that,” said Ms. Ring.

“The gardaí were amazing – they waited outside my house for hours for my stalker.

“If they hadn’t been there, God knows what would have happened.

“It (stalking) is such an invasive crime – it’s absolutely terrifying.

“If you don’t go through it, it’s very difficult to understand how invasive, exhausting and scary it can be.”

When confronted by gardaí, Steele was found to be in possession of duct tape and rope and had a large plastic sex toy strapped to his body.

Steele, from Reavilleen, Rosscarbery, Co Cork, told detectives the only explanation he could offer was that he had become completely obsessed with his former work colleague – and he refused to oblige her pleas to be left alone note.

Ms Ring was so terrified that she considered having her identification details tattooed on her body so that gardaí could identify her if she was kidnapped and killed.

Steele pleaded guilty to molestation, attempted burglary with intent to rape, possession of items to cause a felony and two counts of criminal damage.

Steele, an Australian, has been convicted of indecent assault in his home country. “Just for the Gardaí, I might not be here today” – Survivor hails new laws that could jail stalkers for 10 years

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