Two women who were subjected to stalking by men they scarcely knew have launched a campaign to have a specific offence of stalking introduced on to the statute book.
Una Ring (43), from Youghal in Co Cork, and Eve McDowell (21), a student at NUIG, were both subjected to terrifying campaigns of stalking and both saw their stalkers receive similar sentences, of seven years with two years suspended, after they had each been convicted of harassment.
The women, who established contact with each other after they had spoken separately on The Ryan Tubridy Show on RTÉ Radio One, have teamed up on a campaign for stalking to be recognised as a separate offence with significant penalties.
Ms Ring told The Irish Times they had launched a petition as first step to getting the Government to urgently enact clear and concise legislation making stalking a crime with significant penalties in Ireland.
“On the rare occasion that stalking is prosecuted in Ireland, it is prosecuted under harassment laws. The terms ‘stalking’ and ‘harassment’ are sometimes used interchangeably, but they can be very different,” said Ms Ring who saw her stalker, James Steele, jailed for five years for harassment.
“Stalking is more sinister and distressing – when James Steele was messaging me that was harassment but when he turned up at my house with a crowbar that was stalking.”
Ms McDowell said that since people heard how her stalker, Igor Lewandowski (21), had been jailed for five years after he stalked her at various locations around Galway and broke into her flat with a claw hammer, she has been contacted by many women who had similar experiences.
“It’s far more prevalent than people think and that’s why we need this new legislation,” she said.
Mary Crilly of the Cork Sexual Violence Centre, which is backing the campaign and the petition, said stalking is often minimised.
“We would hear women, particularly girls tell us how their friends seek to minimize stalking by saying things like: ‘Oh you are so lucky to have one so interested in you that they are following you.” It’s not being taken seriously in the way it needs to be taken seriously,” she said.
Stalking Ireland, the campaign group set up by Ms Ring and Ms McDowell, is holding a webinar on May 6th. The petition can be signed at myuplift.ie