Belfast Telegraph

Community worker who harassed ex-partner and posted intimate images of her avoids jail

By Paul Higgins

A community youth worker who posted personal private images of his ex-partner on Twitter and made dozens of unwanted phone calls to her has been warned that any future contact will see him sent to prison.

Imposing a four-month jail term on 40-year-old Fernando Murphy at Antrim Magistrates Court, District Judge Peter King said he was only suspending the term for the maximum three years because of his limited record "and more importantly your plea of guilty" as it saved "putting her through the further ordeal of cross-examination".

"If there's anything you take away from today it has to be the fact that she wants absolutely nothing to do with you because it's clear from her statement that your presence in her life is anything but benign and is causing her significant anxiety and angst," said the judge.

As well as the suspended sentence, Judge King imposed a three-year restraining order warning Murphy that "if you are back in front of me for any offence pertaining to this lady I will have absolutely no hesitation in activating the four months in its entirety in addition to any other sentence".

Murphy, a community youth worker from Balholm Drive in Belfast, was due to go on trial accused of pursuing a course of conduct towards his ex-partner between December last year and March this year "which amounted to harassment" of his victim.

Instead, defence barrister Michael Ward said the defendant now wished to plead guilty.

A prosecution lawyer told the court that throughout his course of harassment there was a non-molestation order (NMO) against Murphy, which had been put in place in October last year.

She described how Murphy made dozens of phone calls to his ex-partner from a withheld number, "leaving her upsetting voicemails". The victim was able to recognise Murphy's voice.

He also telephoned the victim's daughter numerous times, again leaving voicemails from a withheld number, but enquiries conducted with the respective phone providers revealed the calls had come from Murphy.

Arrested and interviewed by police, he denied making the calls.

At the beginning of December Murphy left a voicemail message asking if they could resolve "matters amongst themselves without the police", but then on December 20 his victim reported to police that "a Twitter account was posting a photo of her in her underwear".

The PPS lawyer conceded it was accepted by the prosecution "that this element of the defendant's conduct on its own may not have met the evidential burden which we must meet if beyond reasonable doubt".

She added, however, that according to his victim "the defendant was the only person with whom she shared these images".

Again Murphy was arrested and interviewed, but again he denied any wrongdoing.

On March 5, said the lawyer, "she received 29 phone calls from the defendant", revealing that earlier this year he had been given a police caution for breaching the NMO when he was spotted around the workplace of his victim.

Mr Ward conceded it had been "made crystal clear" to Murphy that the relationship was over.

"He clearly had feelings for her over a long period of time," said the lawyer. "They went through a lot together and sometimes it can be difficult to call quits to a relationship like that."

Mr Ward said given Murphy's job, this conviction and sentence "may well have ramifications for his employment but clearly he needs to get the message and the penny has dropped with him about his conduct".

Sentencing Murphy, Judge King repeated that his victim "is someone you must not have any dealings with again".

Belfast Telegraph

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