A RESEARCH project to investigate the prevalence of stalking and harassment has been launched at University College Cork.
The Stalking and Harassment in Ireland Study is being undertaken through the Centre for Criminal Justice and Human Rights in conjunction with Stalking Ireland, which was founded by stalking victims Una Ring from Youghal and Eve McDowell from Sligo.
Ms Ring said she and Ms McDowell did a practice run of the survey that has been developed for the research: “We wanted to make sure it wouldn’t trigger someone.”
The survey is anonymous and participants must be over 18 (but their experiences of stalking and harassment can have occurred before they turned 18).
Ms Ring said the project aims to collate data such as demographics and backgrounds of victims of such crimes.
On February 4, Ms Ring’s stalker, 52-year-old James Steele from Rosscarbery, was jailed for five years after pleading guilty to harassment, criminal damage, and attempted trespass with the intent to commit rape at Ms Ring’s home in Youghal between February 14, 2020, and July 27, 2020.
Following the sentencing, Ms Ring, Ms McDowell and the Cork Sexual Violence Centre came together to launch a campaign seeking specific legislation for stalking. At present, stalking is prosecuted under the umbrella offence of harassment, which is part of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997.
In recent months, legislation was brought before the Oireachtas by Fianna Fáil senator Lisa Chambers, after being drawn up with help of the two women, which would see stalking “characterised by repeated, unwanted behaviour that occurs as a result of fixation or obsession and causes alarm, distress or harm to the victim and to provide for related matters”.
During Ms Ring’s ordeal, disturbing letters were found on the windscreen of her car on two occasions, with one containing a threat that her harasser would rape her and her daughter unless she agreed to have sex with him. Following a surveillance operation, Steele was arrested in the early hours of July 27, 2020.
In her victim impact statement delivered at his sentencing hearing in February, Ms Ring said: “This was not an angry ex-husband or jilted ex-boyfriend. We were not even friends.
“He was just a man that I worked with and it makes no sense to me and I will never understand why he victimised me.