Ralph Clarke, aged 101, has become the oldest person ever convicted of a criminal offence in UK legal history after a West Midlands Police investigation uncovered his shocking child abuse past.
Retired lorry driver Clarke systematically sexually assaulted two young sisters in the 1970s and early 80s.
He abused the girls − who were aged between four and 13 at the time − 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 plucked up the courage to report the offences to West Midlands Police in August last year having seen Facebook posts celebrating Clarke’s 100th birthday.
The enquiry established a catalogue of offending against the girls spanning many years and revealed their brother had also suffered at Clarke’s hands.
He was indecently assaulted on numerous occasions and subjected to several rape attempts when he was an infant schoolboy.
Clarke admitted several indecent assaults, gross indecency and attempted buggery against a boy but denied 22 counts of indecent assault and gross indecency against the girls.
He claimed the women − now in their late 40s − were serial liars but a jury at Birmingham Crown Court today (16/12) deemed he was lying in a bid to cover up his sex attacks and found him guilty on all but one of the counts.
Detective Constable Emma Fennon from West Midlands Police’s Historic Sex Offences Unit − a specialist team set up last year − said it was important to secure justice for the survivors of his crimes.
He added: “There may be people who question the merits of taking a 101-year-old man to court − but age alone is no defence against prosecution. Those he assaulted had to live with the suffering he inflicted on them for decades; they have had a life sentence in that respect and I hope they can take some comfort from the fact Clarke has finally been made to pay.
“Clarke subjected innocent children to truly shocking abuse over a prolonged period. I’d like to thank them for their bravery in coming forward and disclosing what happened so we could take action against him; we never underestimate the courage needed to speak out.
“Some of these crimes date back almost 40 years… but within West Midlands Police we have specialist teams that investigate historic abuse, no matter how far it dates back, and we are determined to secure justice for survivors.”
The decision to prosecute Clarke was taken in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors. Clarke’s age and wellbeing were considered but given the serious nature of the offences, breach of trust and vulnerability of those subjected to his crimes, it was decided that a prosecution was in the public interest.
Claire Nicholls, Senior Crown Prosecutor from the West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service’s Rape & Serious Sexual Offences Unit, added: “Ralph Clarke used fear and intimidation to control his victims and sexually abuse them.
“He took full advantage of their young age and the situation in which they found themselves in order to carry out his offences − and for over 40 years Clarke thought he’d got away with his crimes.
“Due, however, to the courage of the victims we were able to bring this defendant to justice and I would like to take this opportunity to praise the victims for their support throughout this difficult and sensitive prosecution.”