April 2016

Disgraced Catholic monk guilty of ‘degrading and brutal’ abuse of schoolboys as young as 11


A disgraced catholic monk has been convicted for a catalogue of “brutal and degrading” indecent assaults against eight school boys during “a regime of fear”.

Michael Murphy was known as Brother Benedict or Brother Ben to children in his care at St Joseph’s List D School in Tranent, in East Lothian, where he perpetrated indecency and violence against youngsters.

Irish-born Murphy, 82, denied a string of charges against him during his trial at the High Court in Edinburgh claiming: “I should not be here in this court at all.”

But a jury convicted him of 15 charges of assault and indecent assault today involving eight boys spanning the decade up to 1981, reports The Daily Record.

Murphy was acquitted of a further two charges.

Victims told his trial that he had laughed when administering electric shocks to boys using a hand-wound generator dubbed “The Tickler”.

One boy had his hands burned and another lapsed into unconsciousness.

One pupil was locked in an unlit cupboard overnight and another was urinated on by the De La Salle brother.

One 57-year-old man told the High Court in Edinburgh: “Because of what happened to me in there my children never went to a Catholic school.”

Another former pupil at St Joseph’s described how he was painfully molested by Murphy during a sex attack.

The now 49-year-old victim said as a boy he did not know what was happening, but when he looked round saw that Murphy was carrying out a sex act on himself.

“As soon as he saw me turn around he punched me on the jaw to make me turn away,” he said.

The victim said he had started crying and found the indecent assault “painful”.

Like some of the other troubled children placed in the school the effects of the abuse haunted his later life.

He said: “There has been a lot of confusion within my whole life.”

He later underwent rehabilitation and attended Narcotics’ Anonymous.

Another boy was subjected to a rape ordeal by the monk and an accomplice when he was aged 14 or 15 in the showers.

He was also warned that if he told anyone of the sexual abuse he would never see his parents again.

One former pupil, who had been taken into care after his mother had difficulties coping, ended up at the East Lothian school where he recalled the Catholic brother administering electric shocks and “squeezing my wee hand”.

“I am 44 now,” he said. “This is when I was eleven, but I can remember the shock. It was sore.”

He was asked how Murphy appeared as shocks were given and replied: “As if he was getting enjoyment out of it.”

Another ex-pupil said Brother Benedict had “a wee box” and when it was wound up it would generate electric shocks through clips or sometimes bare wiring.

He said he ran off from the residential school many times in a bid to get home.

One former pupil said of the institution: “It was just run on a regime of fear.”

He was asked by advocate depute Paul Kearney if Brother Benedict had played a role in that regime and said: “He was the housemaster. You usually had to answer to him.”

He said boys attending a “club” at the school would be offered prizes, such as cigarettes, during an electrocution session with Brother Ben turning the handle on the device.

“The person who could take the most punishment got the prize,” he said.

“Everyone in the group stood in a circle and held hands. That’s when the electricity was passed from one person to another.”

He said it was presented as “a game with a prize at the end of it”.

He told the court: “You didn’t want to look a coward.”

One 59-year-old, who had been at the school as a boy of 14 and 15, told the court he was abused by a monk as he slept at a cottage in the grounds of the school.

“I used to wet the bed and Brother Ben would come in and put his hand under the covers to see if I was wet,” he said. “He would feel my private bits.”

He said it was “very wrong” what the religious figure was doing, but he did not tell teachers or care workers.

He explained: “I didn’t want any shouting or bawling. I wanted home for the weekends.

“He said he was frightened of Brother Ben. He had also attended the club where he was subjected to electric shocks.

He said the monk was “happy, laughing” giving the shocks and added: “I didn’t like to say no to Brother Ben just in case he picked you up by your ears.”

He said on occasions the brother would grab a victim by the ears and pull until they were on their tiptoes.

The man also told the court that Murphy would also resort to more serious violence and kicked him at the bottom of his spine.

The man said that later in his life he had suffered a breakdown.

A 57-year-old man told the court that he suffered a boyhood beating at the school that left him screaming as a belt was wielded on him.

“The marks are still on my back today,” he said. “You got that if you brought the school into disrepute, if you brought the police to the door,” he said.

“I thought he was a lunatic. I thought he was off his head. You didn’t mess with Brother Ben.”

He said he was “elated” when he left St Joseph’s and told the court: “Because of what happened to me in there my children never went to a Catholic school.”

Murphy, of Rogate Road, Liss, Hampshire, who trained as a social worker, had maintained his innocence and told jurors: “As a matter of fact I should not be here in this court at all. I have done nothing wrong in St Joseph’s.”

He claimed he had always treated children with respect and said: “I am very unlucky.”

He said he had taken three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and told the court: “I am a member of a religious order. I have never been involved in sexual abuse in my life with a man, woman or child.”

Under cross-examination by Mr Kearney Murphy said his nickname at the school had been “Bootsy”, but denied it was because he kicked boys with hobnail boots.

He said it was because of a TV programme, Bootsy and Snudge.

The trial judge, Lord Uist, adjourned the proceedings after the jury returned its verdicts this afternoon.

October 2007

‘Torture’ monk loses abuse appeal

A former monk jailed for administering electric shocks to schoolboys has failed to overturn his conviction.

The Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh upheld the case against Michael Murphy, 73, who worked at St Ninian’s school in Stirlingshire.

The residential school was operated by the Catholic teaching order, the De La Salle Brothers between 1960 and 1982.


It catered for up to 34 boys, aged from seven to 11, who had been sent there by children’s panels across Scotland.

In 2003 Murphy, known as Brother Benedict, was convicted of ten assaults on nine boys dating from the 1960s.

Murphy was jailed for two years for the crimes but released after nine days to await the outcome of the appeal.

Two judges at the hearing rejected Murphy’s claims that the conviction was unsafe because of identification issues and the amount of time that had elapsed between the case coming to court.

‘Key witnesses’

A third judge, Lord Marnoch did express concern and said pre-trial publicity may have affected the question of identification.

Lord Osborne and Lord Macfadyen said the conviction should stand.

Murphy was employed as a welfare officer at the school in Gartmore which was used for petty offenders or those in need of care.

Staff at the school, now closed, were provided by the de la Salle order.

An earlier hearing was told that Brother Benedict administered electric shocks to the pupils using a special device.

Pupils were also whipped with knotted laces and made to eat their own vomit.

One boy’s arm was broken when the monk lost his temper over a cheeky comment.

Murphy’s legal team continued to question the identification evidence at the trial after only four of the nine boys recognised him in the dock.

The lawyers also complained about the length of time which passed before Murphy was brought to trial.

By then the electric shock device had been thrown away, key witnesses had died and the school’s medical records lost.

July 2003

Anger over abuse sentences

Two-year prison sentences handed out to a former monk and another man for abusing children in their care have been condemned by their victims.

Michael Murphy, 69, was known as Brother Benedict and was former housemaster at St Ninian’s School, in Stirlingshire.

Murphy, whose address was given as Hill Brow, near Liss, in Hampshire, had been found guilty of 10 offences of physical abuse, including giving electric shocks.

James McKinstrey, 70, (pictured below) of Burnbank, Port of Mentieth, Stirling, who was a former night watchman, was convicted of four counts of sex abuse.


At the High Court in Edinburgh, the two men appeared for sentence and were told they would both serve two years in prison.

Former woodwork teacher Charles McKenna, 83, of Colquhoun Street, Stirling, was found guilty of two charges of indecent assault and one charge of indecency and will appear at the High Court in Forfar for sentencing on Tuesday.

The jail terms were greeted with derision by former pupils who attended the List D school for young boys with behavioural problems in the 1960s and 1970s.

One man said: “I am shocked at the sentences. Two years is diabolical.”

A 52-year-old man said Murphy made pupils hold metal rods wired up to a generator.

He said: “I was electrocuted in the boot room. Brother Benedict saw that as some sort of kick.

“Your punishment was to stand there while he turned these sort of dials. You were shaking. You could not let go.”

During the trial, the court heard how 10-to-12-year-old pupils at the school were whipped, forced to eat their own vomit and were sexually abused in dormitories and the school’s woodwork room.

A boy’s arm was broken when Murphy lost his temper with him.

St Ninian’s was run by monks from the de la Salle order, and closed in 1982. The order now faces claims for damages.

Lord Carloway, who heard pleas for leniency on behalf of the two men, said a jury found there was a breach of trust and prison sentences were inevitable.

Addressing Murphy, the judge added: “The methods which you employed to control those boys included extreme physical violence, forcing children to eat regurgitated food, striking with shoe laces and, perhaps most bizarrely of all, electrocution with some form of home-made generating device.”