Monday 23 October 2017

Man (70) jailed for asking 12-year-old girls to engage in sexual act with him loses appeal

Judge's gavel
Judge's gavel

Ruaidhrí Giblin

A 70-year-old bachelor jailed for inviting two 12-year-old girls to take part in a sexual act with him has lost an appeal against conviction.

Accordingly, Mr Justice Ryan, who sat with Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan and Mr Justice Michael Peart, dismissed the appeal.

Peter Clarke (70) of O'Neill St, Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan had pleaded not guilty at Dundalk Circuit Criminal Court to two counts of sexual exploitation involving two girls aged 12 at a location in Dundalk on September 9 2011.

He was found guilty by a jury and sentenced to five years imprisonment with the final three suspended by Judge Rory McCabe on March 24 2014.

Dismissing his appeal against conviction today, President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice Seán Ryan said Clarke's trial was “satisfactory” and his conviction “safe”.

On September 9 2011, two 12-year-old schoolgirls were having lunch outside a café near their school when Clarke - described by witnesses as “old, chubby, having a harelip and driving an old green Jaguar car” - approached them.

Clarke threw a €5 note on their table, returned to his car and stared at them, the judgment stated.

He then got out of his car and again approached the table when, according to one of the girls he asked them to spend the night in bed with him.

He said 'youse would love that,' the judgment stated, and 'is there any chance of me and you two lovely ladies tonight?'.

A witness from the café noticed him putting his hands on one of the girls' hands before he got back into his car and drove away, the judgment stated.

The girls returned to school in a distressed state where they contacted their principal who called the gardaí.

Mr Justice Ryan said it would have been “eccentric” for the jury to decide that the words uttered by Clarke were anything other than an invitation to participate or engage in a sexual act, as had been submitted as his first ground of appeal.

It appeared to be “wholly unstateable”, he said.

Furthermore, there was no ground for submitting that his detention and questioning had been invalid.

Clarke had a right to consult his solicitor and he did so when he spoke to Mr Conor MacGuill on the phone, Mr Justice Ryan said.

Clarke's barrister, Roderick O'Hanlon SC, further submitted that the trial judge: erred in holding that his arrest and detention was lawful; erred in allowing the girls' school Principal to give evidence as to their demeanour when they returned to school; erred in his instructions to the jury; erred in allowing the prosecution to adduce evidence from interview memos made when he did not have access to his solicitor and that the trial judge erred in telling the jury that 'while it was wrong to convict an innocent man it was equally bad to acquit a guilty man'.

None of Clarke's grounds of appeal were upheld.

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