The television news presenter Isla Traquair has called for the way the justice system handles stalking cases to be overhauled after a neighbour’s harassment forced her to fear for her safety and flee her country home.
Traquair had nightmares and panic attacks after being stalked by Jonathan Barrett, who stared into her bedroom window, stood on her wall to watch her and on one occasion suddenly appeared in her Wiltshire home to offer her a sandwich.
Barrett, 54, a gardener, was ordered on Thursday to do 300 hours of community service and pay £715 in costs after being convicted of stalking Traquair.
During the sentencing hearing at Salisbury magistrates court a tearful Traquair said: “I have been scared and in a state of fear for my safety since early 2021. Every aspect of my life has been negatively impacted. The insidious effect of [Barrett’s] erratic behaviour to intimidate me and cause me fear has been devastating. His behaviour has caused damage to my health and mental health.
“I have been riddled with anxiety. I have been to some of the most dangerous places in the world, confronting murderers ... but I have never felt as scared as I did in a remote home in rural Wiltshire. I didn’t feel safe to leave my house or walk my dog. I didn’t feel safe to wear certain clothes and didn’t even feel safe inside my own home.”
After the hearing Traquair issued a statement in which she said conviction rates in stalking cases were “shockingly low”.
She added: “I don’t know if I will ever feel safe. The only thing that would have made me feel safe temporarily is if he was jailed. I was informed that the probation report said he did not admit or acknowledge the crime and he had a distorted view of me. That is extremely worrying to hear.
“Stalking cases must be handled differently and I’d suggest that from day one suspected stalkers should be psychologically assessed, because they are demonstrating obsessive fixated behaviour towards one person.
“Prevention is better than cure. And it should be absolutely standard that they undergo treatment if found guilty of stalking. The whole system needs an overhaul – from police training, to sentencing.
“Stalking is the crime most likely to result in rape, murder or serious harm, according to experts, and yet it seems it is one of the most overlooked crimes, with shockingly low conviction rates.”
Barrett denied stalking or harassing his neighbour and claimed it was she who had become fixated on him. He was previously handed a restraining order to not contact Traquair or to enter or look into her property.