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Serial stalker who avoided jail back in court for breaching restraining order

Judge refuses ban on social media and electronic devices as “people need them these days”

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A serial stalker who became one of the first people to be charged under the Protection from Stalking Act Northern Ireland 2022 has appeared in court after breaching a Restraining Order by contacting the female victim.

Richard McFarland’s previous offending was disclosed in court and bail was granted but the judge refused to impose a ban on him having electronic devices.

The 47-year-old from Corickbeg Road, Plumridge was previously said to be “infatuated with the woman and the messages to her were amorous in nature” at one stage claiming to be the father of her baby, despite never meeting, or knowing her personally.

Last October he was handed a Probation Order after admitting engaging in conduct amounting to stalking, causing her to suffer fear, alarm or substantial distress between June 5 and July 6, 2022.

He further admitted breaching a Restraining Order by contacting the female between June 5 and December 7, 2022, including after he was freed from custody having been initially refused bail.

Today, he appeared by video-link from police custody charged with breaching the Restraining Order by contacting the victim by social media on March 31, as well as April 2, 5 and 13.

A police officer aware of the facts of the case said the charges could be connected.

While bail was not opposed the officer requested stringent conditions including a complete ban on McFarland possessing or accessing electronic devices and from using social media.

However, District Judge Peter Magill refused, stating: “It’s not that kind of thing. People need them these days. The fact of the matter is, if he contacts her, she’ll contact police, he’ll be arrested and that’ll be that.”

Addressing McFarland directly he said: “If I release you on bail, I want your promise that you will have no contact whatsoever with this woman in any shape or form by any means. No contact means no contact. If convicted of this, you will be in breach of a Probation Order and could end up going to jail. If there is any breach you will almost certainly be waiting in custody for your case to be dealt with.”

Bail was set at £250 and McFarland was ordered to return to court on May 21.

When he first appeared in court in 2022, it was disclosed his behaviour began by commenting on various social media posts over a course of time which steadily escalated.

While she was on honeymoon he messaged asking: “Where are you? What are you doing? Will you marry me?”

He was arrested, and when asked about his claim to be the father of the victim’s baby boy, he replied referring to him as “our son”.

Having been released on bail and warned not to contact the victim, McFarland nonetheless proceeded to message her again.

The victim obtained a Restraining Order but despite this, she reported receiving further messages consisting of “love you” and “will you marry me”, none of which she answered.

Previously she reported him attending her home address uninvited, and again warned against contacting her.

Undeterred, he created various social media accounts and continued sending pestering messages which included, “Keep safe in my arms, please contact me.”

At one stage the victim was blocking 6-7 accounts daily.

She became very insecure in her own home, investing in CCTV and additional security measures.

When she declined to engage with the messages, McFarland began contacting her family, including her mother, causing further distress.

When McFarland’s home was searched two internet-enabled mobile phones were discovered which breached existing terms of bail for similar matters involving the same female.

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