Birmingham & Black Country

101-year-old Ralph Clarke jailed for child sex offences

Ralph Clarke Image copyright PA
Image caption Ralph Clarke is a former RAF serviceman and a retired haulier

A 101-year-old man has been jailed for 13 years for committing 30 child sex offences.

Ralph Clarke, of Erdington, Birmingham, is thought to be the oldest person convicted in British legal history.

Judge Richard Bond QC said Clarke had been guilty of "systematic abuse" between 1974 and 1983.

He was found guilty of 21 counts of abusing two girls and admitted nine charges relating to a boy during his trial at Birmingham Crown Court.

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The court heard the retired haulier abused the girls at his home in Holly Lane, Erdington, his garden shed, and in the cab of his truck.

'No remorse'

The former RAF serviceman, who was born in March 1915, was given details of the sentencing by an intermediary.

Judge Bond said the passage of time did not mean abusers would escape justice.

He told Clarke: "You present as a fragile old man; however, what was plain to see was that, despite your guilty pleas, you have no remorse whatsoever."

The judge added: "Those who were sexually abused even in the distant past can rest assured that any complaint will be treated with sympathy and compassion."

Image copyright Joe Giddens
Image caption Ralph Clarke "used fear and intimidation" to control and abuse his victims, the CPS said

The court heard Clarke is the "oldest person tried in English criminal court".

He had been able to follow proceedings because special arrangements had been made.

Passing sentence, Judge Bond said the effect of a jail term on him would be "enormous" and he would sentence in a "measured and reflective manner" due to his age and infirmity.

However, he said the case was so serious "only a lengthy sentence" was justified.

Phil Mackie, BBC News correspondent - Birmingham Crown Court

Looking pale, Ralph Clarke walked into court using his walking stick, wearing a zip-up cardigan. As Judge Bond outlined the reasons behind his sentencing, Clarke shook his head.

His victims sat with their heads bowed and were crying as the judge spoke. Many of their family members were also in tears as details were given of the "systematic abuse" they had suffered.

The court heard Clarke had been aged between 59 and 68 when he committed the offences.

Judge Bond revealed details about how the victims had been affected, which included how one said she had never felt loved or cared for and still suffered nightmares.

Another victim said it had an impact on everything she had done and contributed to the breakdown of her marriage.

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

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

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said Clarke's age and wellbeing were considered but the serious nature of his offences, breach of trust and vulnerability of his victims meant a "prosecution was in the public interest".

"Ralph Clarke used fear and intimidation to control the victims and sexually abuse them," a spokesman said.

The police and CPS also praised the victims' courage and bravery in bringing Clarke to justice.

The NSPCC said: "Clarke not only inflicted appalling abuse on his victims, he put them through the harrowing ordeal of a crown court trial - and did not show a shred of remorse throughout.

"This case sends out a clear message that it is never too late for survivors of abuse to speak out."

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