Northern Ireland

Henry Clarke paedophile case to be reviewed by PPS

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Media captionQuestions have been raised over the handling of the case

The Public Prosecution Service is considering a review of the case of a paedophile, who admitted his crimes to police, but was never prosecuted.

Henry Clarke, 75, admitted abusing three different boys at care homes in Northern Ireland.

The retired church pastor, who now lives in Canada, made the admissions in 1985.

A spokesperson for the PPS said the police had not forwarded "significant evidence concerning serious offences".

The Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has now requested that the chief constable provide this information.

"The PPS is concerned to learn that the police did not forward significant evidence concerning serious offences to the then Department of the Director of Public Prosecutions in 1985," it said in a statement to the BBC.

"Accordingly, a request has been forwarded to the chief constable under section 35(5) of the Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002 to now provide this information.

"Given the revelations that have come to light in these cases, the PPS proposes to carry out a formal review of all relevant matters and of any previous prosecutorial decisions relating to Mr Clarke.

"We intend to contact Mr Brown (Henry Clarke's victim Billy Brown) to seek his views on the review and to keep him informed of developments."

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Media captionBilly Brown, who was abused by Henry Clarke, says he was a 'monster'

Henry Clarke first came to the attention of police in 1982 when an investigation began into systematic abuse at the notorious Kincora boys' home in Belfast.

Some of the teenagers who had been abused at Kincora had come from Bawnmore, where they said they had also been sexually assaulted.

Belfast man Billy Brown, 61, was abused by Clarke at Bawnmore care home in Newtownabbey in 1968.

Mr Brown was just 12 years old and in care when Henry Clarke invited him to his family home, introduced him to his parents and then abused him while he slept.

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Media captionThe serial paedophile admitted his crimes to police in 1985, but has never been brought to justice.

He said Henry Clarke should be brought to justice no matter how long ago the abuse happened.

"The legal system let me down," he told BBC News NI.

"He should be brought to justice now. He should have faced the courts like everyone else. If I do something wrong I face the courts.

"At the end of the day, why should he not face the courts? I can't understand it. What was the reason they let him go?"

'Too long ago'

In 1985, Clarke admitted abusing two boys when taken in for questioning by police during a family holiday in Northern Ireland.

In a statement to police, he admitted to sexually touching a child. The indecent assault happened in 1968 - 17 years before his confession.

In spite of his admission, the then Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) ordered "no prosecution".

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Image caption Henry Clarke's first job in Canada was running a children's home

Asked why, the current Public Prosecution Service said that the DPP at the time considered the abuse had happened too long ago.

"The directing officer considered that given the time period which had elapsed (17 years) it would be inappropriate to pursue a prosecution," said a PPS spokesperson.

"The prosecutor in this case was following the applicable guidance at the time in the then DPPs' Office."

But leading Barrister Eugene Grant QC said the passage of time did not matter in this case.

"On any reading, the DPP decision not to prosecute here is devoid of any rationale or indeed any legal principle," he said.

"Simply to say a 17-year delay exists without more does not actually hold weight from a legal perspective."

According to evidence given at the Historical Institutional Abuse inquiry, the DPP directed: "It was considered that the passage of time rendered proceedings stale and inappropriate.

Billy Brown said this reason did not make sense because two other child abusers who had sexually assaulted him in the late 60s had been tried and sentenced in the 1980s.

"The other ones, they went to jail, they done their bird," he said. "But he gets away."

No consequences

After Henry Clarke returned to Canada in 1985, he wrote a letter to police in Belfast, confessing to another case of sexual abuse - this time against a resident from the Conway House children's home who was assaulted at a Boys Brigade camp in Newcastle, County Down.

"I wrote a letter to them and told them that I had missed telling them about this other boy and I felt at that point in time there would be consequences for my admission," he said.

But there were no consequences.

Given the state prosecutor's previous refusal to mount a case against Clarke, this time police did not even tell the DPP about this latest confession; the RUC said there should be "no further action".

Image caption Henry Clarke worked as a pastor at four different Canadian churches

A senior police officer wrote: "As the act admitted by Clarke is not punishable in law, there is no necessity to forward papers to the DPP."

But according to the PPS, the sexual touching of a child was, in fact, punishable in law at the time.

Barrister Mr Grant, who examined the papers in the case, said the act carried out on the boy was a crime and questioned the police's reason for not referring the case for prosecution.

"We have in the documentation a statement by a very senior RUC detective, who oversees the investigation, making it quite clear that, in his view, this is not an offence punishable by law," he said.

"That is quite clearly wrong and it does not make any sense, so in my view, the RUC decision not to send this file to the DPP fails."

Questions have also been raised over why the RUC did not alert the authorities in Canada to Henry Clarke's confessions of abuse.

In his letter to the RUC in 1985, he looked for an indication from the police as to whether they intended contacting the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

A senior policeman from Northern Ireland concluded: "As Clarke has not been convicted of any offence, there is no obligation to notify the RCMP."

The PSNI said it was now reviewing how it shares information with the Canadian police.

Ch Supt George Clarke, head of the PSNI's Public Protection Branch, said: "It is noted that when the decision was taken not to inform RCMP, that was on the basis that Clarke had not been convicted of any offence, which may have been the relevant standard or requirement applicable then."

Since no one in Canada was made aware of Henry Clarke's admissions, he continued to live out his life without anyone in authority knowing about his confessions.

He pastored at four different churches before retiring.

A child protection expert has said he should not have been allowed to get away with the crimes, and that police had enough to pursue a prosecution.

"In this incidence you had an admission, so you didn't have... to worry that the allegation was old, and the evidence may be stale," said Jim Gamble, a former senior officer with the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Mr Gamble said it was a mistake that Canadian officials were not notified.

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