Released rapist fails to secure injunction

 

THE HIGH Court has refused to grant released rapist Michael Murray an injunction preventing a number of newspapers from publishing his address and pictures of him pending the outcome of a full court action over alleged breaches of his privacy and right to life.

Mr Murray (50) was released from prison last year after serving 13 years for raping four women in six days in 1995. He claimed he had been unable to have a permanent home since then because papers kept publishing his address and pictures of him. He was now living in various BBs and had lost a job because of the actions of the newspapers, he claimed.

Refusing the injunction yesterday, Ms Justice Mary Irvine said Mr Murray had not established that his rights outweighed those of the newspapers’ rights to freedom of expression, and the right of the public to discuss the issue of the release of sex offenders.

Articles containing details of his known whereabouts “contribute significantly” to that debate and to the interest of the public in being able to identify people convicted of violent offences, she said.

“Such knowledge may allow members of the public to adjust their behaviour in whatever manner they feel might best protect them from any risk to which they may legitimately feel exposed.”

She was giving judgment on Mr Murray’s application for injunctions preventing further publication of photos and his address, pending a full court action against five newspapers, alleging that his privacy and right to life had been interfered with by the publication of stories and photographs.

The proceedings arose out of publicity in the Evening Herald, the Daily Star, the Star on Sunday, the News of the Worldand the Sun. The full action is expected to be heard some time in October. The proceedings have been adjourned to next Wednesday for mention.

In her decision, the judge said Mr Murray had not demonstrated the “necessary evidence” to support his claim of a real risk to his life, or that he was likely to succeed in further prohibiting the publication of information about him by the newspapers. He had not suggested, to date, any actual threat had been made to his life, she said.

While he said he did not feel safe living at a number of addresses over the past nine months because details of those locations had been published, he had failed to explain why this was so. No evidence had been produced of assault or any type of verbal or physical abuse, or that he had been threatened in any way.

All that had occurred was that he had been asked to move on by landlords and estate agents or, alternatively, he had done so of his own volition, the judge added.

While accepting Mr Murray enjoyed a constitutional and European Convention right to privacy, and might later succeed in proving there was interference with same, she was not satisfied he had demonstrated, “by proper evidence”, a convincing case that his privacy had been unjustifiably intruded upon such as to justify curtailing the newspapers’ right to freedom of expression at this stage.

It must be accepted there was a public interest in a debate which contended there should be publication of information in relation to sex offenders released from prison, she said.

The evidence was “totally insufficient” to justify the wide-ranging orders sought, given that the extent of the public interest in his identity was greatly dependent on the risk he may currently pose to the community.

The judge said Mr Murray had also failed to provide documentary evidence about his rehabilitation efforts while in prison, or to show he engaged with the probation service since his release. Nor had he produced any medical evidence to suggest he was unlikely to be a risk in the community he lived in.

This case differed from another case in Northern Ireland where newspapers were restrained from publishing pictures of a man convicted of murder just before he was about to be released from prison, she said.

While that man had served a life sentence for one offence, he had no previous history of violent crime, whereas Murray was a repeat offender. He had served a lengthy sentence in Britain for a 1989 rape before coming to Ireland and offending here. The court had little “cogent or proper evidence” to suggest Murray was unlikely to reoffend.