Harassment victim urges other women to get help after tormentor jailed

‘The win for me was when James Steele was prevented from carrying out a brutal attack’

 

A mother of two who was subjected to a horrific campaign of harassment including threats that she would be raped, has urged anyone who has been threatened or harassed or stalked to go the gardaií as help is available.

Una Ring was speaking on Thursday after her tormentor, James Steele was jailed for five years.

“The win for me is not today although we are delighted with the outcome . The win for me was last July when James Steele was arrested on my property and prevented from entering my home and carrying out a brutal attack on myself and my daughter.”

She paid tribute to Youghal gardai support after she reported to them that she was being harassed and following an investigation.

“I would strongly urge anyone who is being harassed to contact your local gardai for advice and have any incident reported should your situation escalate at any stage,” said Ms Ring as she spoke after Judge Sean O Donnabhain handed down the five year term .

Extremely fearful

Ms Ring admitted that when Steele left letters saying he wanted to have sex with her and threatening to rape her if she didn’t agree, she feared for her life as she revealed that the entire experience has had a very damaging effect on her mental health.

“I was extremely fearful. I was in fear of my life, I really was, it was harrowing …. It has had a profound impact - it has impacted me financially because I can only work part-time at the moment but it also impacted emotionally and I’m still getting ongoing counselling, I’m on medication.

“It just knocked my mental health completely and I think that was the biggest toll - I didn’t expect it to do that, I thought I would get over it in a week or two and it would be fine - as the days went by, the mental health deteriorated and I was just fearful.”

James Steele of Reavilleen, Roscarberry, was sentenced to seven years with the last two years suspended. Photograph: Cork Courts Limited
James Steele of Reavilleen, Roscarberry, was sentenced to seven years with the last two years suspended. Photograph: Cork Courts Limited

However Ms Ring said that she was confident that she would overcome the stress and anguish that she had suffered at Steele’s hands as she was fortunate to have an excellent psychotherapist who was helping her on a weekly basis

“I will get over it - what am I looking forward to most - just a sense of freedom, being able to go for a walk without looking over my shoulder because now that the sentence is out, I can carry out with life,” she said speaking outside the Anglesea Street Courthouse in Cork.

Ms Ring said that she was happy with the hearing that she was given in court when she delivered her Victim Impact Statement and she felt that Judge O Donnabhain appreciated the impact that Steele’s crimes had on her and her family as he was very empathetic in his comments.

“Obviously I would have preferred a higher sentence - there is nothing that is high enough for what I went through but I am happy enough with it - I knew he wasn’t going to get the full 14 years (available under the law), I knew it wasn’t going to be what I wanted but the judge was very fair.”

Never forgive

Ms Ring said that she would never forgive Steele for what he had put her and her family through even though she urged people to give similar support as she received to Steele’s family in what must be a very difficult time.

“I feel a little bit of sympathy for him (Steele) that he has destroyed his own life, that he has destroyed his family’s life, having said that, I would be of a different mindset if he had gotten into the house - just the fact that he has ruined everything for me, my kids, his own kids, himself

“I’m unlucky that it happened but I am extremely lucky that the guards were so dedicated - they sat outside my house from midnight to 5am night after night after night, just waiting for him but we knew he was going to show up, it was just a matter of time.

In her Victim Impact Statement delivered in court, Ms Ring said that when she first met Steele, she thought of him as a respected work colleague and what made his obsession with her all the more disturbing was that they had no relationship other than they worked for the same company.

“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 and wanted to inflict so much pain on myself and my two children whom he never even met.

“As a mother, my instinct is to protect my children and I was powerless to do so once his stalking began - I feel a huge burden of guilt that my children’s lives were put in danger even though it was entirely out of my control.”