Priest gets six years for sex abuse

A FORMER priest turned charity worker from Edinburgh has been jailed for six years after pleading guilty to sexually abusing children as young as five during the 1970s.

David Murphy, 56, of Portobello High Street, was sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court in Kent after admitting eight counts of indecent assault relating to the sexual abuse of boys and girls at St Mary’s Home in Gravesend, Kent.

Murphy, who was working for Penumbra - a charity which provides support for people with mental health problems - was arrested years later in Edinburgh in August 2001 .

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The home, which was run by the Catholic Children’s Society (CCS), provided care for abused and orphaned children who had been taken into care by social services.

An investigation into allegations of abuse there began in 1994 when a former resident, then in her 30s, spoke about what had happened to her to a Catholic priest baptising one of her own children

The CCS carried out an investigation, at first without the involvement of the police.

During the trial, Murphy’s lawyers listed 12 factors in mitigation of his acts, including that he "was not responsible for the culture of abuse" at the home; that the abuse had not involved "gifts, violence or coercion"; and that he had since tried to make amends by leading a "selfless life". But, sentencing Murphy yesterday, the judge said his offences had involved "routine and systematic abuse" which was "an extremely serious and gross breach of trust".

The judge also added that he had taken into account the age of Murphy’s victims some of whom were as young as five.

Murphy’s dawn arrest at his Edinburgh home two years ago followed a lengthy investigation by Kent Constabulary. He was detained at his Portobello home by Lothian and Borders Police, before being arrested and taken south to Gravesend .

Murphy, who was a trainee priest when he arrived at St Mary’s in 1969, completed his training and was ordained as a priest.

He joined the Mill Hill Missionaries, a London-based religious order, and spent many years working in Third World countries in Africa before leaving the priesthood in the mid-70s to get married.

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He graduated from Edinburgh University in 1998 and latterly worked as a lecturer in psychology and social anthropology.

Murphy was working as a manager with the Scottish charity Penumbra, which provides support for people with mental health problems, when he was arrested.

Another former priest, Michael McConville, who worked at St Mary’s during the early 70s, was convicted yesterday of sexually abusing children at the home and was sentenced to 100 hours of community service.

Following yesterday’s sentencing, Detective Sergeant Tony Cannon, of Kent Police, said said: "We are very pleased with the decision of the court . There were victims and relatives in court today. They were very pleased with Murphy’s sentence but less so with McConville’s. Their view was he should have gone to jail too."

A spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland said there were no records of Murphy ever having worked as a priest in Scotland.

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