Survivor of vicious attack leads the way in law reform

By Maurice Garvey

A SURVIVOR of a vicious laneway attack in Clondalkin, joined forces with a leading advocate for law reform, in an effort to ensure abuse victims are supported by the State.

Ruth Maxwell, attacked while on her way to work in Knockmeenagh Lane in 2016, heard sexual abuse campaigner Shaneda Daly talking on the radio last year, and knew they could work together to enact change for abuse victims.

Ruth Maxwell 1

Survivor Ruth Maxwell (right) with Shaneda Daly

The pair have become close friends since in their efforts to establish a victim’s repatriation board, meeting with politicians and key stakeholders along the way. The Department of Justice is mediating with them and a full review is taking place within the Law Reform Commission.

Key goals for them are to put supports in place to help victims of all types of abuse, and better communication to let victims know about court cases involving them, and if someone who abused them is being released from prison.

“There are no State supports to victims and survivors in Ireland,” said Ruth.

On the day we met Ruth and Shaneda in Buswells Hotel in the city centre, they discovered on Twitter that the annual Criminal Justice Agencies conference focusing on ‘sexual offences’ took place that morning in Dublin Castle without campaigners being invited to attend.

“We want to be involved in decisions that affect us, but they don’t want to listen,” said Ruth.

“I have questions, but maybe listening to experts can help me rebuild my life. Dealing with the Tribunal (Law Reform Commission), and yer man [culprit who attacked her and is in prison with other cases pending] is traumatic in itself.”

“Victims have no rights,” interjects Shaneda, who set up a support group Side by Side following her own harrowing case.

Her father Harry Daly abused her throughout her childhood, but ultimately spent seven years in prison after signing 227 guilty pleas.

“Serious crime is not treated seriously in Ireland. Victims are never informed of release. In the UK they are consulted. Only that I signed up to the victim consent liaison office, I was told he was given a plum place to live in Leitrim, near a school.”

Ruth continued: “There needs to be more communication between the court services, prison services, and the Department of Justice.”

Ruth lost the use of her left hand after fighting off her attacker, who had a kill kit with him, including a hunting knife and cable ties.

Her case was instrumental in tying DNA evidence and CCTV footage to secure a conviction against a man for attacks on three women in Clondalkin over a five-year period.

Following the attack, Ruth moved out of Clondalkin, and a relationship with her partner broke down. She has yet to return to work. Simple everyday chores become ordeals when you lose the use of your strong hand, something to add to the pile of mounting medical bills, loss of earnings and dealing with PTSD.

However, she has worked tirelessly on law reform changes, organised a national self-defence day for women and a ‘no consent’ art exhibition.

Another thing she is working on, is requesting a change in legislation to ensure a non-national is deported following completion of sentence, and if so, that the yearly prisoner costs be distributed to the victims.

“In order to move forward, I need to get this Tribunal out of my life, some victims have been waiting for compensation since the 1980s,” she said.

“The Department has told me no victim will have to go through what I went through. Compensation for other women is the right thing to do and the last thing I want to fight for.

“I want to go back to my life and don’t want this to define me.”

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