Clive Ruggles, father of stalking victim, urges victims to contact police

Credit:PA Media
Clive Ruggles, whose daughter was killed by a stalker, has urged people to come forward to police with complaints Credit: PA

A man whose daughter was murdered by a jealous former boyfriend has urged victims of stalking in Northern Ireland to come forward to police. Trimaan Dhillon cut 24-year-old Alice Ruggles’ throat after breaking into her Gateshead flat in October 2016. He is currently serving a life sentence with a minimum tariff of 22 years in prison. Alice’s father, Clive, addressed an event organised by the Department of Justice in Belfast to raise awareness of new stalking laws in Northern Ireland and to highlight that stalking protection orders have now come into operation.

The event was told that there have been 97 stalking prosecutions in the region since the offences of stalking and threatening or abusive behaviour were introduced in May 2022. Mr Ruggles set up the Alice Ruggles Trust to make people aware of the dangers of stalking. His daughter received more than 200 unwanted and answered messages in the two weeks before she was killed. Mr Ruggles said: “Stalking is a horrendous, horrendous crime and we have to work with the police and the criminal justice system and other agencies to help how we deal with victims, how we protect victims but also how we deal with perpetrators to stop these cases happening. “In Alice’s case, she really didn’t understand how dangerous the situation she was in. “She was being stalked, it was relentless, he wouldn’t give up and even when she phoned the police, the police order didn’t stop him. We didn’t have stalking protection orders in those days.” Stalking protection orders (SPOs) came into effect in Northern Ireland last month to allow police to protect victims of stalking from the start of an investigation.

The orders facilitate interventions early in investigations, prior to any stalking convictions, in an effort to disrupt stalking behaviours before they become entrenched or escalate. Mr Ruggles said: “In Alice’s case, she was offered a police information notice which was basically a piece of paper. She was told it would protect her but it had no such power. “Five days after he breached the order, he broke into her flat and killed her. “With the SPOs the police have the possibility of bringing an order in very, very quickly in a stalking case and that provides instant protection for the victim. “They can also put restraints upon the perpetrator. “Breaching a stalking protection order is a crime in itself. Stalking is about fixation and it is about obsession. “If an order is breached, that is telling you the perpetrator is not going to be stopped, there is a high level of risk and you have to talk urgent action. “When people breach these orders they need to be arrested immediately.” He added: “We also need victims to go to the police sooner than many currently do. “Alice never understood how much danger she was in. She thought this was an ex-boyfriend who would give up and go away, she wanted him to move on. “We now know he was never going to move on and we need to protect people in Alice’s situation.”

Detective Superintendent Lindsay Fisher, from the PSNI public protection branch, said there had been an overwhelming response from victims since the stalking offence was introduced, but added that she still believes more victims have not come forward. She said: “The reporting of stalking offences has been really overwhelming so far, we have had over 200 cases reported and we have seen a number of those progress through to PPS (Public Prosecution Service) and through to court with prosecutions. “The stalking protection orders are a civil order, where you have a different threshold. You can seek a civil order even if we haven’t fully progressed the criminal investigation. “It is an opportunity for police to identify the behaviours of stalkers and to intervene where bail conditions wouldn’t be appropriate. “This could stop the perpetrator from going to places where that victim would be.” Ms Fisher said it was often difficult for victims to come forward because the stalking is taking place in domestic situations. She said: “I think it is an under-reported crime because whilst we know that stalking behaviours can happen in any relationship, we are seeing more cases that have a domestic element to it. “We know that domestic abuse is under-reported and I think stalking is under-reported.” The event was also addressed by Caroline Conway from the Public Prosecution Service who said that there had been 97 stalking prosecutions since the offence was introduced last year. The new offences in Northern Ireland have stiffer penalties than were available previously under harassment legislation, with up to 10 years’ imprisonment for the stalking offence and up to five years for the offence of threatening or abusive behaviour.

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