Former lord mayor of Cork jailed for a year for sex offences

John Murray placed on the Sex Offenders Register for sexually assaulting a teenage girl

John Murray of Gregg Road in Cork was found guilty of five counts of sexually assaulting a girl while in her teens at four locations in the city on various dates between March 1996 and October 1998. Photograph: Daragh McSweeney/Cork Courts Limited

John Murray of Gregg Road in Cork was found guilty of five counts of sexually assaulting a girl while in her teens at four locations in the city on various dates between March 1996 and October 1998. Photograph: Daragh McSweeney/Cork Courts Limited

 

OLIVIA KELLEHER


A former lord mayor of Cork was jailed for a year today (Mon) and placed on the Sex Offenders Register for sexually assaulting a teenage girl who told the court the abuse had “consumed” and “tainted” her adult life.

Last month, John Murray (83) of Gregg Road in Cork was found guilty of five counts of sexually assaulting the girl while in her teens at four locations in the city on various dates between March 1996 and October 1998. He had pleaded not guilty to six counts of sexually assaulting the girl but was acquitted on one count.

Giving evidence during a four-day trial at Cork Circuit Criminal Court, the retired taxi driver and former Labour city councillor insisted that none of the assaults ever occured. He testified that he was shocked and disgusted by the allegations.

The victim in the case had told the jury of seven men and five women that she was first sexually assaulted by Mr Murray at the age of 13 at a location in Cork city.

The then city councillor said she was a beautiful girl and began kissing her lips and groping her neck and breasts. The woman, who is now in her thirties, said on one occasion he confronted her in the toilets of a pub and rubbed her breasts while during another incident he pulled down her underwear and put his fingers in her to vagina while he masturbated with his other hand.

The victim also stated that Mr Murray sexually assaulted her in a car. During one assault he whispered in to her ear: “I would love to f*** you.”

In a victim impact statement during sentencing at Cork Circuit Criminal Court yesterday the complainant said the abuse completely changed the direction of her teenage years.

“It has consumed my life since then. I went from being a happy, outgoing child to being an angry, isolated and withdrawn teenager. I was embarrassed and ashamed of what had happened. 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. I became paranoid about how I looked and what I wore.”

The victim in the case also spoke of the difficulties involved in testifying in a high-profile case.

“I have had to sit and divulge my innermost secrets and details to a room full of people and giving my evidence has made me relive it all again in my head. There has been huge media attention on this case. I have had to put on a brave face each day and try to find the courage to carry on. I am glad now that (Mr Murray) will finally answer for the pain and anguish he has put me through and I can get some sort of closure from this and move on. I now look forward to starting a new chapter in my life.”

Detective Garda Cathy Houlihan told Judge Sean O’Donnabhain that Mr Murray denied all the allegations of abuse to him when they were put to him by gardaí in mid 2012. The offences first came to light in August of 2011 when the victim disclosed the details of the abuse to her relatives.

Mr Murray admitted seeking a meeting with the woman’s relatives when the abuse allegations were first made. He stated that he only admitted touching the young woman’s private parts to her relatives because he was “scared for his life at the meeting.”

In sentencing Judge O’Donnabhain noted the detrimental impact of the trial and media coverage on the victim. Taking Mr Murray’s advanced age, health complaints and lack of previous convictions in to account he imposed a four year custodial sentence suspending the last three years of the sentence.

He described the woman’s victim impact statement as “eloquent and instructive”.

“There was no plea of guilty and very little by way of remorse. It is noticeable the effect the coverage and having to give evidence had on the girl. You (John Murray) put her through that.”

There were emotional scenes outside Court No 2 in Washington Street Courthouse after the sentence was handed down. The complainant and her family cried and hugged before they left the courthouse.

Speaking outside the court the young woman said that all she ever wanted was to be believed and that she was hopeful of getting on with her life. She thanked her family, gardaí, the Sexual Violence Centre and Support after Crime Services and the jury and court for their time.

Spokeswoman for the Sexual Violence Centre, Mary Crilly, told reporters of her respect for the young woman who had summoned up the courage to deliver her own victim impact statement.

” It took great courage to stand up there this morning and read her own victim report. John Murray has been held to account now. It was always about her being believed and him being held in to account. Being believed is hugely important. This is a message to people how ever old the (abuser’s ) are, however much time has passed let the guards know try and do something try and get justice.”

John Murray was first elected to Cork Corporation in 1985. He was re-elected in 1991, but lost his seat in 1999. He was elected Lord Mayor of Cork in 1993 and was involved in local politics for much of his adult life.