Singer awarded €830,000 after 'shining light' on horrific abuse
A singer was yesterday awarded €830,000 by a High Court jury against a man who sexually abused her when she was a child.
Majella Murphy (37), who was nominated in 2008 for the best Irish Folk Traditional Meteor Award, said the five-month prison sentence served by her abuser Michael Butler (87) was shorter than some people had served for having no TV licence.
Ms Murphy waived her right to anonymity when Butler received his prison sentence last year.
A second victim, a now 31-year-old man, was awarded €945,000 by the same jury after it found Butler had abused him between 1984 and 1991.
A judge in the criminal case in which Butler was given a two-year suspended sentence for abusing him ordered that the man should not be identified.
Both victims, the court heard, had suffered horrific abuse at the hands of Butler who also preyed on other children.
Both said they found it difficult to return to their home town because Butler still lived there. The man said he was particularly upset that Butler still went to Mass every day as he thought this was "a kind of blasphemy".
In April last year, Butler, of Maudlin Street, Kilkenny, pleaded guilty at the Circuit Court to six counts of indecently assaulting Ms Murphy on dates between April 1983 and October 1984.
He was given a two-year prison sentence with the last 18 months suspended.
He separately received a two-year suspended sentence for the abuse of the boy between 1984 and 1991.
Both victims brought civil proceedings against Butler seeking damages for sexual assault and battery.
The High Court was told yesterday by Ms Murphy's counsel, Michael Gleeson, there had already been judgment in default against Butler who was not represented yesterday and the case was now before a jury for assessment only.
A jury of six men and six women took around 45 minutes to find Butler had sexually assaulted Ms Murphy and around 40 minutes to find he did the same to the second victim before awarding them their respective damages.
Psychiatrists called on behalf of both victims said the abuse was the major factor in problems both had in their subsequent lives.
Ms Murphy developed an eating disorder and became an alcoholic while the man also became an alcoholic, developed a drug problem and contemplated committing suicide, they told the court.
Ms Murphy, the sixth of seven children, told the court the abuse started when she was just eight years old. Butler, a single man, regularly invited children to his home. She said her parents, who were good people and did the best they could, were under pressure at the time and she was having trouble at home. The abuse stopped when she was around 13 but she had never been able to tell her parents and it was not until she was around 22 when she told a friend about it.
Butler intimidated her and went crying to neighbours telling the "most horrific lies" about her to such an extent that she was ostracised by neighbours and her family, she said.
She underwent a number of treatments for her eating disorder and alcoholism and today she is a singer-song writer and was nominated two years ago for a Meteor Award, she said. She had also written a book which she hoped to have published and was starting her second book, she added.
She thought it was "atrocious" that Butler had only served a five-month sentence given that she knew people who did more time for not having a TV licence. The only way to stand up to the likes of Butler was to "shine a big bright light on them", she said.
In the boy's case, Butler's abuse started when he was five or six. It continued until he was 13 and 14 and then he started taking drink and drugs, he told the court.
He was disgusted by Butler and could not believe he had the audacity to continue living where he does.