Woman stalker ordered to pay lecturer pounds 5,000 in damages

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The Independent Online
A mature student did stalk her former university lecturer, making his life a misery in a two-year vendetta after her sexual harassment claims against him were disproved, a High Court judge ruled yesterday.

Eileen McLardy was ordered not to "molest, harass or stalk" Dr Robert Fine, not to go within 200 yards of his home and to pay pounds 5,000 damages for the "stress and strain" she had caused him.

Outside the court Dr Fine's barrister, Ashley Underwood, said he believed it was the first time anyone had won damages for being stalked and the first civil action in which a judge had defined stalking.

Judge Thompson said he had heard a "catalogue of complaints" from Dr Fine that he had been constantly harassed and followed by Mrs McLardy and could no longer enjoy his home, his job, go swimming or walk his dog.

Mrs McLardy, 50, who has three children, had told him that all the incidents were coincidences and Dr Fine was guilty of harassing her.

But Judge Thompson said he had to make up his mind which side was telling the truth and he "unhesitatingly" preferred the evidence of Dr Fine.

"He was an honest and truthful witness who undoubtedly suffered as a result of the conduct of Mr and Mrs McLardy and I am satisfied her conduct has been an obsession," he said. "It was obsessive. It was persistent. It was malicious. She has conducted a vendetta against Dr Fine and the reason for it seems to me because of a frivolous complaint against him of sexual harassment. When that was rejected she seems to have embarked upon this course of conduct."

Dr Fine, of Leamington Spa, who lectures in sociology at Warwick University, said he feared Mrs McLardy would continue her vendetta. She had ignored an earlier court undertaking to stop, he said.

Asked to describe the effect Mrs McLardy's behaviour had on him over the last two years, Dr Fine said: "I think the effect of something like this is difficult to define in any singular fashion. It's an enormous invasion into one's privacy - something that's a constant presence."

He had been forced to seek psychological help because of Mrs McLardy's obsession. Dr Fine said he very much hoped his case would add impetus to measures to make stalking a criminal offence.

The judge emphasised in his ruling: "Clearly this amounts to stalking. As a consequence Dr Fine has been caused considerable distress."

At that point, Mrs McLardy, of Coventry, said: "It is not fair. It is a biased judge."

The judge went on to describe witnesses who had told him that Dr Fine had been near "breakdown" because of her actions and the lecturer had told him how his life at home and work had been made a "misery".

"The time has come for that to be stopped," said the judge.

Judge Thompson said Dr Fine first noticed Mrs McLardy and a man who turned out to be her husband, Angus, in a car which stayed outside his house for half an hour. "Since that time a pattern of stalking behaviour has developed."

Mrs McLardy said."I have committed no crime whatsoever. I have only driven by his house - walked by." She said she was considering an appeal.