One of the victims of a man jailed for a series of random attacks on women in Dublin has spoken of her ordeal and the profound effect it still has on her.
Ruth Maxwell has also revealed her delight and relief at the lengthy sentence handed down by Judge Codd in the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court last Thursday.
The assailant, a 34-year-old father-of-two, was jailed for 18 and a half years for carrying out the premeditated random attacks on her and two other women over five years.
“I was expecting a lot lower sentence. I was thrilled,” said Ruth who had just undergone surgery on her hand which was badly injured in the attack.
“I was in hospital just after having surgery when I was told. I was so happy and so grateful to Judge Pauline Codd for doing that,” she told Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio. “I would love to have been there to see Judge Codd deliver her sentence.”
In May 2016, Ruth, a mother and grandmother, was walking along a laneway in Clondalkin when a man grabbed her from behind and put a hunting knife to her throat. Ruth fought back and suffered life changing injuries in the struggle.
Minutes before she hadn’t a care in the world, as she took a shortcut to a Luas stop and was looking forward to starting a new job. It was a beautiful sunny day and Ruth had her headphones on, listening to David Bowie singing Absolute Beginners.
Ruth severed the tendons on three of her fingers on her dominant left hand.
“When I managed to pull knife down, I started to scream. He just turned and ran and I was left standing there.”
Ruth had no choice but to run down the dirt track and came out onto main road.
“Several cars passed and people walked past and this guy Paul pulled in and got out and said ‘are you okay?’ and I said “No. I have just been attacked.”
Even in the midst of such horror there was a comic moment, as Ruth explained how another man thought she was being attacked by her rescuer and was about to intervene.
“A guy called Greg pulled in and got out and actually thought that Paul was my boyfriend and was coming to beat him up.”
In her victim impact statement during the trial, Ruth described how the assault had changed her from being a strong and confident individual into a fraught and fearful one.
“I am frightened of so many things now. I’m especially frightened for my daughter and grand-daughter,” she said, echoing the statements of the other two victims, one of whom said she had “gone from being laid-back and carefree to being hyper-vigilant and nervous”.
Ruth also described the experience of sitting through the lengthy criminal trial while her attacker sat in the dock, impassive and showing no sign of remorse.
The most distressing part of the trial was watching CCTV footage of her assailant’s movements as he drove his van home after the attack. “It was like that movie Jeepers Creepers, the van driving around and you’re the target. I couldn’t stop crying during that.”
While full of praise for Judge Codd, Ruth described as ‘extremely unprofessional’ the actions of the Probation Service which has begun a review of its handling of the case. Judge Codd had been due to hand down sentence last Monday week but postponed it until last week when a probation report she had ordered was found to have contained errors.
The wrong name was used a number of times in the report and there was a reference to previous convictions for road traffic offences, when in fact the defendant in the case had none.
However the director of the service, Vivian Geiran, said that he stood over the revised report which placed the offender at a medium risk of reoffending, an assessment that the judge refused to accept in light of the brutality of the attacks, the absence of any remorse shown by the man and his refusal to engage with the Probation Service.
Ruth said she was “absolutely disgusted” with the Probation Service assessment. “If the judge did not tackle that, they would have been recommending a lower sentence,” she said.
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