Belfast Telegraph

Harassment case Armagh farmer fails to have admissions withdrawn

Judges in Belfast rejected the 60-year-old's challenge
Judges in Belfast rejected the 60-year-old's challenge

A Co Armagh farmer who failed in a legal bid to withdraw admissions to harassing his estranged wife appears to be a "manipulative, controlling person", the Court of Appeal held today.

Sean Murphy claimed he was pressured and bullied by a lawyer into pleading guilty to a campaign which led to his imprisonment.

But senior judges in Belfast rejected the 60-year-old's challenge to being denied permission to vacate his plea, describing the case as completely without merit.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said: "Far from being committed to a caring, collaborative approach to his wife, the evidence suggests this applicant is a manipulative, controlling person."

In January 2017 Murphy, from Carnally Road in Silverbridge, was handed a seven-and-a-half month sentence at Newry Crown Court.

He had been on trial for seven counts of alleged breach of a restraining order and a further charge of harassing his wife on dates between January and March 2016.

After she gave evidence Murphy was re-arraigned and pleaded guilty to the harassment allegation alone. The remaining seven counts were left on the books, not to be proceeded with.

Later, however, he applied to vacate the plea, claiming he had not understood advice given to him by his legal representatives at the time and put under pressure.

Murphy said he was worried about his wife and "in a very bad spot", the court heard.

In June 2017 the trial judge dismissed his application after rejecting claims that he was not fully or appropriately advised.

Four months later Murphy submitted a notice of appeal against her decision, explaining that the delay in taking the legal step was because he had been in prison.

Refusing to extend time for the challenge, The Lord Chief Justice pointed out: "There is no reason why he could not have lodged his appeal while he was in custody."

Sir Declan also cited a medical report prepared for Murphy's trial.

He said: "Dr Bownes considered that consequent upon the effects of inherent personality-based deficits and deficiencies, particularly a tendency to egocentricity... a need to be liked and admired and perhaps inadequacy feelings, the applicant's capacity to exercise appropriate levels of judgment may have been compromised."

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