Former Wigan priest jailed again for sexually abusing boys

A 96-year-old former Catholic priest was jailed today for sexually abusing six boys more than 30 years ago.

Tuesday, 28th July 2020, 2:30 pm
Updated Tuesday, 28th July 2020, 2:34 pm

All but one of Father John Kevin Murphy’s victims came forward to police after seeing media reports about him being imprisoned in 2017 for molesting other boys.

“The picture that emerges from the two cases is that for some 27 years the defendant was a predatory paedophile who used his position as a Catholic priest to groom and subsequently abuse at least ten children,” said Arthur Gibson, prosecuting.

Liverpool Crown Court heard he had been ordained as a priest in 1962 and served in a number of parishes in Merseyside, Lancashire and Greater Manchester until he retired.

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Father John Kevin Murphy

The six victims, who were aged between eight and 16 at the times of the offences, were molested while he took them on swimming lessons and while visiting the homes of their devout Catholic parents.

Some felt unable to speak out because they knew it would devastate their parents and one, who broke down while reading his impact statement, told the judge how he has a deep-seated anger towards his parents because “their devotion to their religion blinded them in the face of a monster using his job as a priest to abuse me and other children.”

Frail white-haired Murphy, who sat in the dock wearing a face mask and with his head bowed throughout the hour and a half long hearing, was jailed for five years.

Murphy, of Hillside Crescent, Horwich, Bolton, had pleaded guilty to 32 offences involving indecent assault and indecency.

Father John Kevin Murphy outside court

Judge Anil Murray, who had jailed him for three years in December 2017 for the previous offences, told the defendant today: “Your offending has had a devastating impact on your victims for decades and they are still really seriously affected by what you did.”

He said examples of this included loss of confidence, nightmares, loss of faith in the Catholic church and feelings of shame. “It is no exaggeration to say you ruined many lives.”

The judge said, “You were a priest at the time and you used your position of standing in society to commit these offences and cover them up…. Because of your position in the church you were greatly trusted and respected, possibly revered, and you abused that trust.”

He said that Murphy claimed in his pre-sentence report not being able to recall committing the offences or having an attraction to males.

“You say you have no memory of these offences. I’m afraid I cannot accept that especially in the light of the evidence of a psychologist who said you do not present with any significant neurological impairment.

“I cannot therefore accept your expression of remorse as genuine.”

He added, “You were effectively living a lie and using your good character and standing in society to commit these offences and got away with it for so long.”

Murphy, who formerly served in the Army and RAF, was given an extended licence for 12 months and ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register for life.

Mr Gibson had told the court that one of the victims involved in the earlier case appeared on television after Murphy was jailed and the interview and newspaper reports were seen by the others who then came forward. By coincidence the sixth victim, who had “wrestled with the effect of the abuse throughout his life” had also decided to speak to the police.

The abuse of the victims, some of them altar boys, occurred at swimming baths in Leigh and Liverpool, on camping trips and at the homes of the victims in Ashton, Liverpool and Whiston.

The victim from Ashton was 11 or 12 when he was abused but he did not speak about it at the time as his parents, particularly his mum, were very devout Catholics.

After she died he told his partner about the abuse and they tried to find Murphy but thought he must have died, but after seeing the news reports about him he spoke to police.

He told how Murphy had been the priest at St Oswald’s and regularly visited his school and was a frequent visitor in the school’s changing rooms. On walks to another altar boy’s homes he would put his arm around him and asked him personal sexual questions.

He sexually abused him at a Liverpool swimming pool under the pretext of teaching him to swim, said Mr Gibson. Murphy pleaded guilty to four offences involving the boy.

Another victim told how he had been horrified when years later Murphy helped at his mother’s funeral mass and he consequently felt unable to visit her grave for 10 years.

Lee Bonner, defending, said, “He is deeply sorry for the pain, harm and distress which his past conduct has caused.”

He said that Murphy, formerly of Maghull, is frail and has various health problems including diabetes and a heart condition.

“Now as a very elderly man he has to paying will pay quite properly the price for his actions as a much younger man.”

He has had the prospect of a jail sentence hanging over him since January when he entered his guilty pleas and has been largely housebound and isolated in the intervening period.