Woman stalked by ex-partner loses bid to have restraining order extended

<span>Rhianon Bragg has become a campaigner on domestic violence and gun crime.</span><span>Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian</span>
Rhianon Bragg has become a campaigner on domestic violence and gun crime.Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

A woman who was stalked and held hostage at gunpoint by her ex-partner has warned that she and her family are in danger after a judge refused to strengthen a restraining order against her abuser, despite hearing evidence that her life was under threat.

Rhianon Bragg had asked for the restraining order on Gareth Wyn Jones, who was freed from prison earlier this year, to be extended to cover the whole of Gwynedd in north Wales rather than a limited area around her remote smallholding in the foothills of Eryri (Snowdonia).

During a hearing at Caernarfon crown court on Thursday, Bragg said Jones was a “massive threat” to her and her children and explained that the current order, which forbids him from going within 800 metres of her home, was not stringent enough because her house was surrounded by common land and they could be seen from miles around.

The prosecution and north Wales police backed her arguments and the court heard that a senior probation officer had concluded Jones remained a violent man and the “risk of death” could not be discounted.

But the judge, Timothy Petts, ruled he could not extend the order because the danger Jones posed had been known by another judge when it was originally drawn up. He said there needed to be a change in circumstances before it could be strengthened.

Outside court, Bragg, who has become a campaigner on domestic violence and gun crime, said: “I feel gutted. It feels like a ticking clock still.”

Giving evidence in court from behind a screen, Bragg described Jones as “manipulative, dangerous and coercive”.

She said: “He’s a massive threat to my children and me. He doesn’t accept culpability for what he has done. He will come back and target us again. I strongly suspect he will kill us.

“He’s an incredibly vengeful person. He will be incensed he was convicted. He doesn’t think his offending is wrong. He will hold me responsible for what has happened to him.”

Bragg told the court she had post-traumatic stress disorder. She said: “My brain is fixed on the constant threat of him being around. I don’t sleep very well. It’s continuous and ongoing.”

She described her home as very remote, with a poor phone signal, and said her nearest neighbour lived a quarter of a mile away. She said of Jones: “He would be well hidden in all directions. There is one access road. He would know our comings and goings. There is no way we would be safe or help or assistance could arrive before it would be too late.”

Hetti Barkworth-Nanton, the chair of the charity Refuge, said: “We are extremely disappointed to see Rhianon’s request to extend the restraining order against her perpetrator has been refused. This is an individual that has already made threats on her life and his release from prison will understandably be extremely concerning for Rhianon and her loved ones.

“We must listen to women when they call for further protections and detail the very real fear and threats to their safety. It cannot be the case that society simply sits and waits for something else to happen before women’s safety is taken seriously when their lives are at risk and it is too late to act.”

During the five-year coercive relationship, Jones verbally abused and physically assaulted Bragg, and when she ended the relationship in 2019 he began stalking and threatening her. Jones was arrested three times and his licensed firearms were seized but no further action was taken and his weapons were returned.

In August 2019 he ambushed Bragg and held her at gunpoint for eight hours, releasing her when he was convinced that the relationship would continue. The police were called and in February 2020 Jones was sentenced to four and a half years in custody, to be followed by a five-year licence on release.

He was freed from custody in February. Under the terms of his licence he cannot currently go into Gwynedd but that restriction runs out in 2029. Bragg wants him banned permanently.

John Philpotts, representing the prosecution, accepted the restriction seemed “draconian” but said: “Some cases require it. If one thing goes wrong, the consequences could be and are likely to be fatal. There could be no second chances in this case.”

Emily Calman, for Jones, said the extended order would take him away permanently from his relatives and friends and hinder his rehabilitation. Calman said he had not threatened Bragg since his release and had no intention of ever talking to her.

The judge described it as a “troubling case” and said everyone had tremendous sympathy for Bragg. But he said the prosecution and Bragg needed to show there had been a change of circumstances.