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Journalist Allison Morris calls for introduction of stalking legislation following four-year harassment campaign

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Irish News journalist Allison Morris has called for stalking legislation to be introduced. Credit: BBC

Irish News journalist Allison Morris has called for stalking legislation to be introduced. Credit: BBC

Irish News journalist Allison Morris has called for stalking legislation to be introduced. Credit: BBC

A Northern Ireland journalist has called for the introduction of stalking legislation after she was subjected to a four-year campaign of harassment by her former partner.

Allison Morris' former partner Fernando Murphy, of Balholm Drive, Belfast, was jailed last week for 10 offences, including breaching a restraining order and harassment.

The Irish News journalist said she was subjected to "daily abuse" at the hands of Murphy, including threatening phone calls, text messages and emails.

In September 2016, he showed up at the Irish News building "ranting and screaming" and squashed a sandwich into her hair and clothes.

Ms Morris said that, due to her job as a security correspondent, she initially did not want to show signs of weakness over her ordeal.

"As a security correspondent I deal with the PSNI regularly - at times critically - and I did not want them, or anyone for that matter, to view me as weak. I did not want to be seen as a victim," she told the Irish News.

"In the end, it was not my welfare but that of my child that brought the situation to a head."

In November 2017 Fernando Murphy was convicted of harassment for the first time.

Ms Morris detailed that range of abuse she suffered over the years.

"There are the threats to ruin your life, the phone calls, the constant messages, the character assassination, the false accusations, the fabricated and fantastical stories, the sexually explicit comments, the conspiracy theories and the need for constant attention regardless of how negative the circumstances," she said.

"He contacted my employers, my work colleagues, my union, my friends, my family, politicians. He phoned social services and made false reports about my grandchildren, causing my family enormous distress."

Last week, Murphy was handed a 14-month sentence at Belfast Magistrates' Court, half of which will be spent in prison and half on licence.

Northern Ireland is the only region in the UK without stalking legislation. Ms Morris hopes the newly formed Executive will take action on the issue.

"I'm far from convinced my ordeal is over but I am hopeful that legislative change will soon make stalking a criminal offence, with tailored protection orders and sentences that reflect the seriousness of the crime," she said.

"Until then, I despair for those victims living in fear of the what next, every moment of every day."

A public consultation on the creation of a specific stalking offence was held last year by the Department of Justice.

The majority of respondents supported the introduction of such legislation.

Justice Minister Naomi Long has said she will bring legislation through Stormont to tackle domestic abuse. The Department of Justice said this legislation will include provisions to combat stalking.

Belfast Telegraph