Jail for farmer convicted of harassing estranged wife

September 25, 2017

A Silverbridge farmer has been jailed for orchestrating a lengthy campaign of harassment and intimidation against his estranged wife.

Sean Murphy (59), from Carnally Road, was handed a seven and a half month prison sentence when he appeared before Newry Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, on Wednesday.

The court heard how Murphy – a qualified chartered engineer who now runs the family farm – showed “a wilful disregard for court orders”, repeatedly breaching restraining and non-molestation orders and causing fear and distress to his former wife, Caroline Murphy. The father-of-five, it was argued, could not accept the breakdown of the 35-year marriage.

He initially denied harassing Mrs Murphy on several occasions between January and March 2016, the charges then proceeding to trial in January of this year.  However, on the second day of the hearing, and after the victim had given evidence, Murphy changed his plea and admitted his guilt.  Following the plea, a total of seven charges of breaching a non-molestation order were not proceeded with and were ‘left on the books.’

Judge Sandra Crawford revealed that in the period between entering his plea and Wednesday’s sentencing, Murphy failed to attend a court hearing, which resulted in an arrest warrant being issued.  His history of breaching restraining and non-molestation orders was also discussed.

Regarding the harassment offence, Murphy admitted to ‘pursuing a course of conduct which amounted to the harassment’ of his estranged wife, including texting her and sitting outside her house in his car on five occasions.

Judge Crawford said that after listening to Mrs Murphy giving evidence at the trial earlier this year, it was “clear to the court her vulnerability and the fear and distress she suffered”.

A probation officer’s pre-sentence report concluded that Sean Murphy was in denial that his marriage was over, that he “projected blame” onto his estranged wife, took no responsibility for his actions and that he has shown no remorse.  Judge Crawford said the report indicated his actions also displayed a “high degree of malicious intent”.

“Until you start to recognise the harm your behaviour causes, you will not reduce your high likelihood of reoffending,” she said.

Judge Crawford also issued a restraining order banning Murphy from “intimidating, harassing, pestering or annoying” Mrs Murphy when he is released from custody.

Prior to sentencing, Murphy’s defence barrister requested that his client address the court, however this was refused.