Page last updated at 16:47 GMT, Thursday, 8 May 2008 17:47 UK

Torture teacher has sentence cut

Michael Murphy
The appeal judges said a prison sentence was inevitable

A former welfare officer who was jailed for "torturing" children at a List D school has had his sentence halved.

Michael Murphy, 74, was known as Brother Benedict during his time at the St Ninian's school for vulnerable children in Stirlingshire.

He was jailed for two years in 2003 for 10 assaults on nine different boys, but was released a week later pending the outcome of an appeal.

Judges have now ruled he should return to prison to serve a one year sentence.

Murphy was employed as a welfare officer at the school in Gartmore in the 1960s.

His trial was told he had used an electric shock device on pupils, force-fed them vomit in the dinner hall and whipped them with knotted boot laces.

One boy's arm was broken by Murphy, now of Liss, Hampshire, who was a member of the de la Salle teaching order but not a monk.

Corporal punishment

Judges ruled last October that the convictions should stand, but Murphy remained free until he returned to the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh for the question of sentence to be decided.

Defence QC Ronald Clancy argued that the two year sentence was too severe.

He asked Lord Johnston, sitting with Lord Osborne, to take into account the time the matter had been hanging over Murphy's head since he was first questioned by police in August 2000.

He also said that Murphy, youngest of nine children from a farming family in Ireland, had been an inexperienced member of staff trying to control troublesome boys at a time when corporal punishment was common.

Rejecting the claim that any jail term was too harsh, Lord Johnston said the number and nature of the assaults - not least the electric shocks - made prison inevitable.

But the judges cut Murphy's sentence to one year.

The trial in 2003 heard that pupils had been sent to the List D school for petty offending or because they were judged to be in need of care. Most were between 10 and 12 years old.

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