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Outcry over release of rapist with dementia just months into a five-year sentence

Edinburgh High Court
Edinburgh High Court

Pensioner Charles Murphy was jailed in August for horrific crimes carried out in the 1960s and 70s, before he succumbed to the disease.

The 78-year-old was convicted of a catalogue of sex crimes and violence across Glasgow, including threatening to throw acid in a woman’s face.

The move has angered critics and re-ignited the debate over trying people with dementia following the high profile collapse of the Lord Janner sex abuse case.

David Hines, of the National Victims Association, said: “If you are found guilty you should serve your whole sentence, not just weeks of a five-year jail spell, regardless of your health.

“Appeals should be done from prison – not as a free man.”

Murphy was sentenced to five years’ jail in August despite psychiatrists explaining to his trial jury that he didn’t understand what was happening.

But it’s now been revealed that the pensioner, whose legal team argued he was unfit to stand trial because of his illness, was released after just over two months in jail.

Court officials say he is now living with his daughter while his lawyers appeal the conviction.

Miscarriages of Justice Organisation Scotland said they had been supporting Murphy’s family and said his health had played a part in his release on “interim liberation”.

Paul McLaughlin, of the group, said: “There are concerns he was never fit to stand trial and for due process to take place. We will continue to help out the family as they fight the conviction.”

But last night justice campaigners said the decision to free Murphy sends out the wrong message.

Murphy was convicted at the High Court in Glasgow but sentenced at the High Court in Edinburgh by Lady Scott.

During his trial, forensic psychiatrists told the court the accused could not understand the sentencing process.

Sending him to prison, Lady Scott told Murphy: “Sentencing you is a difficult matter because three forensic psychiatrists have deemed you incapable of understanding the sentencing process.”

But she said she could not go against the jury’s verdict.

The judge said Murphy, from Glasgow, had been found guilty of serious, historical offences, including rape and assault. She said: “These are offences which require a prison sentence and ordinarily attract a very substantial prison sentence.”

The judge had earlier rejected a plea by Murphy’s defence counsel, Donald Findlay QC, who said he was unfit for the court process.

A spokesman for the Scottish Court Service confirmed that Murphy has been let out of jail.

The spokesman said: “Charles Murphy was granted bail under standard conditions by Lord Turnbull at the High Court in Edinburgh and is residing with his daughter.

“An application to appeal has been made and leave has not yet been granted.”

Murphy’s case echoes that of Lord Janner, who died yesterday aged 87.

The former Leicester West MP was declared unfit to stand trial earlier this month due to his dementia.