Singer awarded €830k in child sex abuse case

Justice: Man served only five months in prison for his crimes

Tim Healy

A METEOR Award-nominated singer has been awarded €830,000 by a High Court jury against a man who sexually abused her when she was a child.

Majella Murphy (37), nominated in 2008 for a Meteor, said a five-month prison sentence served by her abuser, Michael Butler (87), was less than some people had done 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 by Butler, who also preyed on other children.

Both told the court 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 Kilkenny 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.


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.

Ms Murphy, the sixth of seventh 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 about 13 but she had never been able to tell her parents and it was not until she was about 22 that she told a friend.

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.