Northern Ireland news

Stalking victim retraumatised by slow pace of judicial process

A victim of stalking - who bravely went public to highlight the gap in legislation in Northern Ireland - has criticised the judicial process that has left her without any definite court date for an appeal hearing. She talks to Security Correspondent Allison Morris

Ciara Hindman (26) and the injuries she suffered following an assault by her former partner. She has said stalking legislation is essential to protect those trying to escape obsessive relationships

CIARA Hindman's ex partner was found guilty of assaulting her and breaching a restraining order and given a suspended sentence in January.

The harassment was as a result of a terrifying campaign of stalking she was subjected to after ending a relationship with James McQuillan, the man who had been her boyfriend for two years.

The 29-year-old, of Bangor Road in Newtownards, Co Down, was also convicted of threats to kill and breaching a non-molestation order.

He received a nine-month suspended jail term, which he later appealed.

The PSNI currently deal with stalking via harassment legislation or through breaches of non molestation orders, civil orders which may not be available to all victims.

Records obtained by police show McQuillan entered the apartment block Ms Hindman was living in at the time on at least 100 occasions between February 10 2019 until he was arrested on March 29.

Key fob records showed that he moved about the apartment block during the night, at times, unknown at the time to Ms Hindman, staying overnight.

Along with her mother Fiona Jamieson she met with Justice Minister Naomi Long, who vowed to advance stalking legislation through the assembly as a matter of urgency to bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK.

Nine months after McQuillan appealed his sentence and, a year-and-a-half after the assault, Ms Hindman is still waiting for the appeal hearing taking place.

The stress of knowing she will have to face her stalker in open court and give evidence has, she said, left her unable to start recovering from her ordeal.

The appeal had been scheduled to take place tomorrow. She has since been informed that as one of the investigating officers is on maternity leave, it will once again have to be postponed.

"I was due to start my first counselling appointment on the same day as the appeal which I then cancelled," she said.

"There's no one representing me, no one advocating for me, I'm treated not like a victim but as a witness for the prosecution.

"I get the same letters informing me of court dates as the other witnesses who are all police officers.

"For them this wasn't a traumatic incident in their life, for me it was.

"People keep asking 'what is your solicitor doing about this' I have to keep telling them I'm not represented in the process, I wish I was, I don't know how many times I've had to say that.

"I'm frustrated at the system. No one can understand what it's like being stalked unless they've been through it.

"When I got a letter saying the appeal date had been set I took a panic attack.

"But then I knew I had to prepare myself, so I booked time off work cancelled and rescheduled my counselling appointment only for the appeal to be cancelled.

"I didn't ask for this, I didn't ask to be a victim of this and the process, meant to bring me justice and closure has been completely retraumatising," she added.

A spokesperson for the Public Prosecution Service said: “We have been made aware of the complainant’s concerns about an adjournment in this case.

"We are making immediate enquiries about the circumstances that led to this. We will inform the complainant on the background to this in due course.”

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