Birmingham & Black Country

101-year-old Ralph Clarke guilty of child sex offences

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionPolice said Ralph Clarke showed no remorse

A 101-year-old man - thought to be the oldest person convicted in British legal history - has been found guilty of historical child sex offences.

Jurors found Ralph Clarke from Erdington, Birmingham, guilty of 21 counts of abusing two girls in the 1970s and 80s.

He admitted nine charges relating to a young boy part-way through his trial at Birmingham Crown Court.

Clarke told police he was "immune to feelings", the court heard.

See the latest updates and reaction to this story here

The former RAF serviceman, of Holly Lane, who was born in March 1915, sat impassively as the unanimous verdicts were delivered.

Judge Richard Bond said he needed to "ponder with care" the sentence and added: "The reality is that he's so old it's unlikely he'll be released back into the community."

He said the public would be "horrified" if Clarke was not sent to prison.

Analysis: BBC News Correspondent Secunder Kermani

The court had made some special arrangements for the 101-year-old former lorry driver.

He didn't have to sit in the dock and had an intermediary to help him hear proceedings. The court only sat until lunchtime each day to allow Clarke to rest.

But prosecutors said he was "lucid" with an "excellent memory".

Clarke did admit some of the offences he was charged with relating to one of the three victims but described his actions as "something that happened" for which he showed no real remorse.

At the start of Clarke's trial, prosecutor Miranda Moore QC said the defendant was arrested after two of his victims walked into a police station in August last year.

Before the case was opened by Miss Moore, the judge informed the jury there would be occasions when Clarke left the hearing without permission for personal reasons.

Image caption Det Con Emma Fennon described Clarke's crimes as "horrific"

Det Con Emma Fennon from West Midlands Police's historical sexual offences team described the crimes as "horrific offences" and said Clarke showed no remorse.

When questioned on the merits of taking a 101-year-old man to court, she said: "The day that not prosecuting someone who hurts a child is not in the public interest, we may as well all pack up and go home."

Det Con Fennon added that his age was "no defence to what he has done".

'Something that happened'

She said: "The nature of what he did to his victims has robbed them of their childhood."

Claire Nicholls from the West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service said for more than 40 years "Clarke thought he'd got away with his crimes".

"However, due to the courage of the victims we were able to bring this defendant to justice," she said.

Clarke had told the jury the offences against the schoolboy were "something that happened".

Image copyright PA
Image caption Judge Richard Bond said the public would be "horrified" if he did not send Clarke to prison

The court heard he abused the girls at his home in Erdington, in the cab of his works truck and in his garden shed after placing them on a work bench.

His victims reported the offences to West Midlands Police in August last year after seeing Facebook posts celebrating Clarke's 100th birthday.

Investigations revealed a catalogue of abuse spanning many years.

Clarke admitted two counts of attempting to commit a serious sexual offence, two of indecency with a child and five indecent assaults on the boy.

The retired lorry driver was remanded in custody and is due to be sentenced on Monday.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites