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Court of Appeal

State appeals 'unduly lenient' sentence for teacher who sexually exploited teenage girl

John Murphy (43) Ferncourt Crescent, Ballycullen in Dublin, pleaded guilty last year to a charge of the sexual exploitation of the girl.

A MARRIED SECONDARY school teacher who sexually exploited a 16-year-old girl through Instagram was treated with undue leniency when he was sentenced to one year in prison, a barrister for the State has told the Court of Appeal.

Appealing the leniency of the sentence given to John Murphy (43), Roisin Lacey SC, for the Director of Public Prosecutions, said that the trial judge had failed to adequately take into account a number of aggravating factors.

Murphy, she said, carried on the communications with the vulnerable 16-year-old for a whole year while he was a secondary school teacher and she was doing her junior certificate exams.

There was an escalation in the graphic nature of the communication, she said, including “explicit descriptions of penetrating her and what he wanted to do to her”.

She cited a further concern that a probation report had stated that Murphy “tended to rationalise his behaviour” and is at a medium risk of reoffending.

The report also stated that Murphy had a limited understanding of the harm he caused, was emotionally disconnected, has limited insight and displayed sexually compulsive behaviour over a long period.

Lacey pointed out that the sentencing judge had set a headline sentence of six years but reduced that to three years and then suspended the final two years.

In doing so, Lacey said the sentencing judge had put too much weight on mitigating factors, such as Murphy’s good career and lack of previous convictions, and not enough weight on the aggravating factors. The offending had a serious impact on the victim, she said.

John Murphy, a married father of one from Ferncourt Crescent, Ballycullen in Dublin, pleaded guilty last year to a charge of the sexual exploitation of the then 16-year-old victim on dates between June 2017 and June 2018.

The Galway native also pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography, relating to two videos of graphic content. Those offences occurred in 2008 and 2010, the Court of Appeal heard today.

Paul Murray SC, for Murphy, said that the sentencing judge had identified and taken into account all the aggravating factors. Counsel said the judge had also clearly set out what was stated in the probation report and explained that he wanted to suspend part of the sentence to “incentivise and ensure rehabilitation”.

The three-judge court, comprising President Mr Justice George Birmingham, Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy and Ms Justice Tara Burns, reserved their judgment.