Melbourne priest given suspended sentence for child porn conviction

Philip Murphy’s sentence was suspended after the judge held his crimes did not involve real children

A Melbourne priest has been given a suspended 12-month sentence after having pled guilty in a Victorian County Court to five counts of transmitting child pornography. The Rev. Philip Murphy (53) former vicar of Holy Apostles’ Anglican Church in Sunshine West, a suburb of Melbourne, was spared imprisonment by Judge Phillip Coish on 20 April 2018 as the crimes did not involve real children.

In 3 August 2017 Murphy was arrested by police after child pornography was found on his computer. The Rt. Rev. Philip Huggins, Bishop of the Oodthenong Episcopate in the diocese, read a letter to the Holy Apostles’ congregation on 6 August 2017 from the Most Rev. Philip Freier, Archbishop of Melbourne stating“I have no doubt that you will be as shocked as I was to learn that, on Thursday, your Vicar the Rev’d Philip Murphy was arrested and charged with child pornography offences. … This apparently followed police searches at Holy Apostles Church and Vicarage.

“In accordance with the procedure in section 44 of the Professional Standards Uniform Act of the Diocese, I have suspended Mr Murphy from his duties, with immediate effect.

“On account of this suspension, Bp Philip Huggins is with you this morning as you draw close to God, who knows suffering and brings solace during this difficult time. Mr Murphy is, of course, entitled to the presumption of innocence but because of the seriousness of the charges he faces will remain suspended until this matter is resolved by the courts.”

Murphy was ordained in the Diocese of Salisbury, England, in 1992 and worked in Britain until moving to Australia in 2001, serving in the Diocese of The Murray in South Australia. From 2013-15, he was Chaplain of St Paul’s Anglican College in Hong Kong. He took up his post at Holy Apostles in 2016.  He was arrested after a 12-month police investigation into online child exploitation.

At trial, the prosecution offered into evidence transcripts of Skype conversations Murphy had with other pedophiles in 2016 and 2017. Using the username “Pervert”, Murphy discussed abusing children on Skype after asking various men on gay dating app Grindr if they were interested in children. He sent a photo of himself wearing his clerical collar to one individual, the prosecution said in order to gain their trust. However, he would not abuse children in his vicarage, telling one pedophile “Well you know my work and I have to be discreet. And other than abusing the trust of the Church in this matter, am loyal,” he said.

Murphy told the court his words were mere fantasies and that he had not acted upon them. However Judge Coish said, “The communications were grossly offensive and deeply disturbing.”

Following his civil conviction, steps will now be taken by the diocese to discipline Murphy under Australian canon law.

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