Fr James Finbarr Murphy - of Glounthane parish and various parishes in South London (Image: London Metropolitan Police)

Cork-based priest returned to London for second child abuse trial jailed again

Cork Beo [Dublin, Ireland]

April 30, 2024

By Joe O'Shea

[Photo above: Fr James Finbarr Murphy – of Glounthane parish and various parishes in South London (Image: London Metropolitan Police)]

Fr James Murphy was the subject of a personal intervention by the then Bishop of Cork in 2000

A Catholic priest from Cork – who returned back to Ireland after being jailed for the abuse of boys as young as five years old during his time in the UK – has been jailed again in London.

Fr James Finbarr Murphy has been sent to prison for 31 months for sexually abusing young boys who were in his care in various parishes in South London in the 1970s and 1980s. It was the second major trial involving the Catholic priest and the second time he had gone from Cork to London to face serious charges.

The first time it was voluntarily, saying he would clear his name before then admitting to his offenses. In this latest case, police in London requested his extradition.

Murphy had first returned to Cork – after 2 decades in London – in 1990. He was the Parish Priest at Glounthane outside Cork City until he was sought by the London Metropolitan Police to face the charges that saw him jailed for 30 months in 2000.

After his release from that sentence, Fr Murphy again returned to Ireland and is believed to have spent time in Cork, but, it is believed, not as a priest with any public duties. He was extradited to London earlier this year after a new case was started, on foot of more victims coming forward.

In July 2000, the then Bishop of Cork and Ross, Dr John Buckley, personally briefed Parishioners in Glounthane about the case and Fr Murphy, their Parish Priest, who was 53 years old when he was jailed in London. The charges related to altar boys and other children as young as five that he had come into contact with through Catholic Boy Scout groups, football teams and other youth groups associated with several parishes in South London in the ’70s and ’80s.

After the trial and conviction in 2000, the senior investigating officer said the cases they knew about were likely to be “just the tip of the iceberg” and warned that Fr Murphy had been a predator for decades and had been likely to be abusing boys wherever he was stationed.

In the years after that case, more victims then came forward and Murphy, now aged 77, was convicted of seven counts of abuse against four more boys. His sentencing hearing, yesterday at the Inner London Crown Court, heard from some of his victims and their families, who said the Irish priest’s abuse had severely damaged their childhoods, their relationships with their parents and their adult lives.

One victim told the court in London how, when he finally found the courage to tell his parents about the abuse, aged 10, church authorities swept it under the carpet and made him meet Murphy to “forgive him”.

The abuse involved at least 11 boys ranging in age from 5 to 11 and took place in London between 1975 and 1988, when Fr Murphy returned to Cork.

The priest had been posted at The Church of the Good Shepherd in New Addington, before being moved to the Church of the English Martyrs in Streatham and then on to Our Lady and St Philip Neri, in Sydenham. He was in areas of South London with large Irish immigrant populations.

The court heard that his final parish was at St Gertrudes in South Croydon before he abruptly returned to Cork in 1990, after the church had received multiple complaints about him from families.

Murphy was described as a manipulative man, a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ who interested himself into youth groups and got close to families with young children.

When he was extradited from Cork to London to face the first trial in 2000, police voiced fears that he may have molested children during his 10 years in Ireland.

Detective Constable Roy Probert, of the Met Police, said at the time: “We think he has committed hundreds, maybe even a thousand or more assaults on young boys.”

One London victim who attended the trial in 2000 when he was in his early 30s told The Mirror in 2000: “I was in absolute awe of Father Murphy.

“Catholic boys are taught that a priest is God’s representative on earth and can do no wrong

“He had so much power over us we did not know how to resist him.

“I was assaulted numerous times and, thinking back, I believe he was committing indecencies on children in his care almost every day.”

Murphy is now doing his second stretch in prison in London.