'˜Victory for survivors' as child abuser jailed

A man who sexually abused a young Portadown boy more than 30 years ago during house-to-house calls with his mobile grocery van has been jailed for four years.

Francis Murphy (76), whose address was given by the court as New Line, Lurgan, pleaded guilty to four counts of indecent assault on his victim, who was aged between 10-12 years.

His victim, in a statement issued to the Portadown Times after Wednesday’s hearing at Craigavon Crown Court, described the sentencing as a “victory for survivors of historical sexual abuse”.

He said, “The length of time Francis Murphy will serve does not take away the impact his despicable behaviour had on me due to the sustained nature of the abuse he carried out when I was just a child.

“It has taken me over 30 years to report this to the police but today has proved that regardless of the time that has passed it is important that child sex abusers are brought to justice.”

He urged other child victims to report their abusers to police, adding, “It is never too late”.

Judge Donna McColgan QC said the defendant, now a grandfather, was in a position of trust and had assaulted the boy on around 30 occasions.

She said the victim had provided a “poignant, heartfelt” impact statement which indicated that the effects of the abuse had been significant for him, both as a young boy and throughout his adult life.

Defence barrister John McCrudden QC said Murphy has since “turned his life around” and is involved in the church, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and St Vincent de Paul.

At a hearing last Friday, the court was told that the abuse took place between January 1984 and January 1986, when Murphy made regular stops at the boy’s family home in rural Portadown as part of his grocery round. It was in the van that Murphy performed sexual acts on his young victim.

Ian Tannahill QC, barrister for the prosecution, said Murphy would have given his victim sweets on occasions but that the boy gave them away to his siblings. Mr Tannahill said the victim first spoke to his sister of what had happened in 1996 and his mother was informed.

The barrister added, “This year was a significant period in his life. He met his wife and eventually told her what had happened but didn’t bring it to the police.”

It was when the victim returned to the home place in 2016, where the abuse had occurred, that he decided to take his allegations to police.

Murphy initially denied the allegations but in March pleaded guilty to four charges.

Defence barrister John McCrudden QC said that as Murphy grew into adulthood he had difficulty with sexual orientation but that his homosexuality had been “fully recognised by him for nearly two decades now”.

He said, “Another big difficulty was that he became an alcoholic and he used alcohol to disinhibit him to have his sexual needs met. He sought help for his alcohol addiction in 1999 and has been sober since.”

Mr McCrudden also said that Murphy, who has one previous conviction for indecent behaviour and one for gross indecency, neither of which relate to children, had gone for counselling about his sexual behaviour.

He added, “He comes from a highly respected and respectable family. Since the turn of the century he has completely turned his life around.” The barrister said Murphy was active in AA and his church and was a member of St Vincent de Paul.

Considering three separate reports on Murphy, Judge McColgan noted that while all agreed that Murphy had turned his life around, one of the reports identified areas of deficiency in victim empathy.

She sentenced Murphy to four years in prison, the final two to be spent on probation.