Emily Maitlis has spoken of her fears that her stalker will never stop harassing her and compared enduring his intrusions on her life to living with a “chronic illness”.
Days after her former friend, Edward Vines, was jailed for almost four years for breaching a restraining order, the Newsnight presenter detailed the stress of being harassed for two decades to BBC colleague Emma Barnett in a “powerful and raw account”.
Vines, 47, was first convicted of harassing Maitlis, who he met at Cambridge University, in 2002. He was issued with an indefinite restraining order in 2009, but was convicted of breaching it twice last year.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, Maitlis, 47, told how the harassment had a devastating impact on not only her life, but that of her family.
“It just makes you jumpy... and that’s stressful and it’s tiring and it’s time-consuming,” she told Barnett, adding that it was “hard for everyone”.
“You turn into this person who shouts at your kids for the wrong thing, not that they’ve done anything wrong, because you’re stressed about something else and your head is somewhere else.
“And you’re having to think of these things that are just ludicrous, like ‘how do you get in and out of your front door’ and ‘how are they getting back from school?’
“It’s not that you think everyone is out to kill you. You recognise it as a paranoia. But it doesn’t make it any easier,” she said.
“This has literally been going on for 20 years. It feels like sort of a chronic illness,” Maitlis added before revealing fears that the harassment will never “stop or he will stop, or the system will manage to prevent it properly”.
The journalist took aim at the legal system and society as a whole, saying “we haven’t clearly found a way of finding something that is a deterrent and helpful to the perpetrator in way that would make him stop.”
Maitlis further lamented the way the crime of stalking is treated and what treatment Vines has received, noting “he is also obviously a victim in this”.
“He is unwell and has wasted half his life. Stalking is a weirdo glamorised term for what is essentially mental ill-health and so somewhere along the lines we have to change the mechanism,” the BBC reported.
She added to the corporation that the harassment put her husband in a difficult position, one that the police acutely recognised, pulling him aside to try and ease his concerns.
“Apparently there is a very natural course of behaviour that the husband just goes out and decks the guy,” Maitlis told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“Then of course you’re in the worst possible position because your own husband is serving time instead of the perpetrator.”
The government has apologised to Maitlis after Vines was able to write to her while incarcerated at HMP Bullingdon, and later while bailed to a hostel.
Maitlis described the failure of authorities to stop Vines repeating the very behaviour he had been jailed for as “bizarre beyond belief”.
During Vines’ sentencing, Judge Peter Ross described the situation as “wholly unsatisfactory” and gave the probation service and the governor at HMP Bullingdon 10 days to produce a written explanation.
In her victim impact statement that was read in court, Maitlis said:
“When I heard that Edward Vines had breached his restraining order I felt scared and let-down.
“Scared because it meant that even from within the prison system the perpetrator was able to reach me – let down because the system had been unable to stop him getting in touch even though the crime he is serving time for is harassment through unwanted and ongoing contact.
“It has affected my relationship with my husband who is frustrated that we cannot get to the bottom of this problem even though we have been tackling it through the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts for over 20 years and it has scared my children who thought the threat had gone away – albeit temporarily whilst he was behind bars.
“It has affected my ability to do my work – I am constantly thinking of where I am being sent and whether he will be attempting to track me down.
“The breach has been a reminder for me that this man remains a constant threat in my life and my family’s life.
“And it affects everyday decisions like how I leave the house and how I get to work, what time I feel able to come home at night, I work late nights often.
“It also makes me jumpy around strangers for no reason as I fear any advance might be him.
“Altogether the breach has been a reminder for me that this man remains a constant threat in my life and my family’s life and that my ability to do my work, hang out with my children and lead a normal family life without constant sense of suspicion and fear has been badly damaged.”