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Northern Ireland news

Farmer (59) jailed for campaign of harassment against estranged wife

A 59-year-old man has been jailed for harassing his estranged wife

A 59-year-old farmer who displayed a "wilful disregard for court orders" has been sent to prison for a campaign of harassment against his estranged wife.

Newry Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, heard that Sean Murphy, from Carnally Road in Silverbridge, could not accept the breakdown of his 35-year marriage.

Prior to a sentence of seven and a half months being passed, a defence barrister asked on behalf of the father-of-five if he could address the court, but his request was rejected.

The court heard that Murphy - who was described as a qualified chartered engineer who now runs the family farm - initially denied harassing his wife on several occasions between January and March 2016.

A trial was held in January of this year, and on the second day of the hearing and after the victim had given evidence, the defendant changed his plea and admitted his guilt.

Following the plea, a total of seven charges of breaching a non-molestation order were not proceeded with and were 'left on the books.'

Judge Sandra Crawford said in the period between entering his plea and yesterday's sentencing, Murphy failed to attend a court hearing which resulted in an arrest warrant being issued.

She also spoke of a history of breaching restraining and non-molestation orders.

Regarding the offence itself, Murphy admitted to 'pursuing a course of conduct which amounted to the harassment' of his estranged wife.

The harassment including texting her and sitting outside her house in his car on five occasions.

Judge Crawford said that after listening to the woman giving evidence at the trial earlier this year, it was "clear to the court her vulnerability and the fear and distress she suffered".

The court heard that a probation officer concluded Murphy was in denial that his marriage was over, that he "projected blame" onto his estranged wife, that he took no responsibility for his actions and that he has shown no remorse.

Judge Crawford said the report indicated that Murphy's actions also displayed a "high degree of malicious intent".

"Until you start to recognise the harm your behaviour causes, you will not reduce your high likelihood of reoffending," she said.

Judge Crawford also issued a restraining order banning Murphy from "intimidating, harassing, pestering or annoying" the woman when he is released from custody.

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