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BBC’s Emily Maitlis ‘scared and let down’ as man jailed again for harassment

BBC Newsnight presenter speaks out after Edward Vines is jailed again over his 20-year harassment campaign

Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis has spoken out over how a 20-year campaign of harassment at the hands of a former university friend is destroying her life as he was jailed for nearly four years.

Ms Maitlis said she had been let down by the criminal justice system and Edward Vines’s unwanted attention was upsetting her husband and scaring her children.

Vines, 47, was jailed by a judge at Oxford Crown Court for 45 months after admitting two breaches of an indefinite restraining order banning him from contacting the BBC journalist.

The court heard that Vines – who had briefly become friends with Ms Maitlis while they were both students at Cambridge University – had written letters to her while serving a previous prison sentence for earlier breaches of the restraining order.

He had also written again after his release from prison while living in a bail hostel and subject of licence conditions.

Judge Peter Ross described this as “wholly unsatisfactory” and gave the probation service and the governor at HMP Bullingdon 10 days for a written explanation.

In a victim impact statement read to the court, Ms Maitlis, who was not present, 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.

“And it affects every day 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.”

Prosecutor Julian Lynch told the court the first offence happened between November 28 and December 15 2016 while Vines was a serving prisoner and the second, between September 16 and 22 2017, while he was living in a bail hostel on licence.

He said that both letters, one of which included a letter to Miss Maitlis’s mother Marion, were addressed to the presenter at BBC Broadcasting House – but were intercepted by the corporation’s security staff and she never received them.

“In the letters he complains about her behaviour towards him at Cambridge and says that his trials have been unfair,” Mr Lynch said.

“The second letter consists of three separate pieces of paper and continues with the same complaints.

“It was signed off with: ‘I will not relent until you talk to me’.”

Another set of letters to Miss Maitlis were seized by police from the hostel where Vines was living, in which he apologises to her.

“I am really sorry if I harassed you and made you feel bad in yourself,” Vines wrote.

“I am beginning to understand how it must feel, to take responsibility for my actions. This is facilitated by writing letters and seeing you on the television and overcoming my own mental health problems.

“I am really sorry that I have harmed and upset you. It was not my intention.”

Vines, of Clarks Row, Oxford had previously tried to change his plea, but that was rejected by the court and he then dispensed with his lawyers and represented himself.

The court heard that Vines has a long history of convictions for harassing Miss Maitlis.

In 2002, he was convicted after she raised the alarm following the murder of fellow television presenter Jill Dando in 1999 and made subject of a restraining order.

Vines was first convicted of breaching the restraining order in 2008, and the following year made the subject of a tougher order, which he further breached in 2010.

In 2013 and 2014, Vines breached the restraining order again – and in 2016 was jailed for three years.

Mr Lynch said Vines suffered from mental health problems, but added: “The view of the psychiatrists is that his obsession with Miss Maitlis is different to the issues of his mental health.”

Defending himself, Vines described the views Miss Maitlis expressed in her victim impact statement as “all new to me”.

“She doesn’t need to be as worried as she is. The idea that her children are scared is completely new to me,” he said.

“I think the whole issue can be resolved if she would talk to me. That has not happened since 1995 and she has not spoken to me since then.

“She is refusing to speak to me because of what she did to me at Cambridge, which deeply affected me.

“I think I have been through enough and a lengthy prison sentence is not going to help. I do not think I am going to write to her again.”

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