Former lord mayor of Cork John Murray was jailed for one year yesterday for sexually assaulting a girl from when she was 13 years old, as the judge said he felt his hands were tied on the issue of sentencing.
“In view of the fact that there was no plea of guilty and I see very little by way of remorse, I feel my hands are tied,” Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said.
He then imposed a two-year sentence on each of four counts of sexual assault, with the last year suspended on each count. He imposed a concurrent, four-year sentence on one of the counts with the last three years suspended. The net effect was a one-year jail term.
“The offences themselves are different in nature and severity. (Four) involve inappropriate touching and fondling. (One) is much more serious, stripping her lower body and intruding on her, this is much more serious behaviour,” the judge said.
Outside the courtroom, the victim, who cannot be identified, said: “All I wanted was justice and to be believed.” Her father said of Murray: “He destroyed her life.”
Detective Garda Cathy Houlihan said the complainant did not reveal to her family what John Murray had done to her in the mid-1990s until Aug 2011. In the company of others she approached Murray.
“He apologised for his actions and admitted kissing (complainant’s name) and touching her breasts and vagina,” Det Garda Houlihan said. He denied all charges when questioned in June 2012 by gardaí.
During the trial, the former lord mayor said he had made such an admission, but only because he was under duress at that meeting. “I said that out of duress because of the rumpus that was being created. I should never have said it. At the end of the night I said, ‘Is this what you want to hear — I touched her breasts, I touched her vagina’?”
Donal McCarthy, defence barrister, said yesterday, “He is a first-time offender. He must live with the fact that whatever past life he had and society’s view of him, that has changed.”
The circumstances of the five counts were that: he kissed her lips and neck and groped her breasts while telling her she was beautiful; when she was a passenger in his car he leaned over, rubbed her vagina outside her clothes while moaning and rubbing his penis in his car; he whispered into her ear, “I would love to fuck you” as he fondled her; rubbing her breasts after approaching her as she left the toilet in a pub in Cork; and finally — the charge which the judge said was more serious — he pulled down her underwear when she was wearing a summer dress and put his fingers into her and with his other hand took out his penis and pulled at it.
Mary Crilly, director of Sexual Violence Centre Cork, said of the complainant, “She just wanted him to be held to account and show some remorse. It was a very difficult teenaged life for her because he had such a high profile standing. Talking to her afterwards she was not necessarily looking for him to get a custodial sentence, just for him to be held to account.”
Ms Crilly said that people sometimes did not make complaints of sexual assaults because the perpetrator was now elderly, but she encouraged people to come forward even in such circumstances.
Victim impact statement: ‘The abuse has consumed my life since I was 13’
“The abuse began when I was only 13 and has consumed my life since then. I went from being a happy, outgoing child who was involved in everything from Girl Guides to drama and music, to being an angry, isolated and withdrawn teenager.
“I felt at the time I could not tell any of my family what was happening to me. I was ashamed of what had happened. I felt tainted by the abuse. I wondered, why me?
“He was a former lord mayor and a prominent member of Cork society and I felt scared and worried that I wouldn’t be believed. He was only in his 60s at the time, a tall strong man and I felt very intimidated by him.
“Once the abuse began I quickly gave up all my hobbies and activities and I became withdrawn and broke away from my family. I fought a lot with my parents… I could never let them know the truth about why I was so angry.
“I became paranoid about how I looked and what I wore and spent years wearing tracksuits. I felt safer dressed like that.
“I finally found the courage to open up to my family and tell them what had happened to me. It was a secret I couldn’t carry anymore.
“The investigation process and trial have been very traumatic for me. I have had to sit and divulge my innermost secrets to a room full of people. It has made me re-live it all again in my head.
“There has been huge media attention on this case and I felt as if the eyes of the entire country were on me. I have had to put on a brave face each day and find the courage to carry on and try and go about my daily life.
“I only ever wanted for justice to be done and for everybody to know I was telling the truth.
“I would like to thank the Sexual Violence Centre, Support After Crime Services, An Garda Síochána, particularly Det Gda Cathy Houlihan, the courts and the jury. I now look forward to starting a new chapter in my life.”
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