Delays in proposed stalking legislation have meant that “about 235 arrests” were not made, according to Eve McDowell.
New litigation against stalking has been delayed for the last year.
The bill will make stalking a criminal offence and make it easier for people to obtain restraining orders against stalkers.
Speaking to Lunchtime Live, Ms McDowell, who co-founded Stalking Ireland, said that the inclusion of the bill into the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill has meant “it’s taken so much longer” for the legislation to roll out.
Since Northern Ireland brought in new stalking laws a year ago, a total of 88 arrests have been made, and 47 people have been charged.
“If you scale up the amounts of arrests that have been made to the Republic of Ireland … that works out at about 235 arrests that could have happened,” said Ms McDowell.
‘No contact order’
Ms McDowell – who is a victim of stalking – said that this delay has meant she has not been able to apply for a no-contact order.
“When I found out he was being realised, I tried to apply for a no-contact order. I was told no because I wasn’t in a relationship with him,” she said.
“It’s going to be really important that that’s introduced but it really needs to happen soon.
“The plan that is available is going to be moving to the next stage the first week in May and will be in before summer.”
Fellow Stalking Ireland co-founder Una Ring has said that a no-contact order may have “nipped [the stalking] completely in the bud’ in her case.
“We were never in a relationship so I wouldn’t have been able to get a restraining order against him,” she said.
Ms Ring said the restraining order should have come into effect when her stalker began repeatedly messaging her, and could have prevented the harassment she went on to experience.
“If I had been able to get a restraining order then, and if he had taken notice of it, it mightn’t have escalated and myself and my family wouldn’t have been put through this.”
Ms Ring said that the reduction of sentences for stalkers has a severe effect on the victims.
“James Steele [Ring’s stalker] was sentenced to nine years. There were two years taken off for his guilty plea … it was then put down to five years and he will serve three.
“He’s going to be out next year, and I’ll be back looking over my shoulder.”
Ms McDowell has also said that it is important that officers and staff in Ireland are “trained to recognise and respond to the crime”, as they have been in Northern Ireland.
“There’s no point in having the legislation there if people don’t know how to use it, how to prosecute under it and how to actually understand it and protect people from that crime.”
Listen back to the full segment below: