Northern Ireland news

West Belfast man who twice raped a schoolgirl is jailed

Darren Clarke (22) was given a 64 month sentence, which will served equally between prison and supervised licence

A WEST Belfast man who twice raped a teenage schoolgirl within 24 hours has been jailed.

Darren Clarke (22) was given a 64 month sentence, which will served equally between prison and supervised licence.

Judge Neil Rafferty KC praised the victim for her “bravery and persistence”.

He told the victim, who watched the proceedings at Newry Crown Court by videolink, she now had the “gold standard of vindication” as Clarke had confessed his own guilt and assuring her that while he was sentencing Clarke for his abhorrent offences, she was at the forefront of his mind.

At an earlier hearing Clarke, from Beechmount Grove in west Belfast, entered guilty pleas to four offences committed on January 31 2018 including two counts of rape, one attempted rape and one of assault.

Summarising the case during his sentencing remarks on Monday, Judge Rafferty outlined how Clarke, who was 18 at the time, had been at the victim’s house when there was an argument over his dead mother.

The victim tried to close the door but Clarke shoved it open and forcing the 17-year-old onto her knees, he removed her clothing and raped her.

“That wasn’t the end of the matter,” Judge Rafferty told the court, “there was toing and froing on social media that lead to the fourth count and the second rape” later that day.

The judge revealed that Clarke told his victim “he was going to take tablets” so despite the first rape, the teenager, “motivated out of highly decent human kindness,” went to Clarke’s home “to make sure that he was safe”.

Clarke repaid that kindness and decency by assaulting the schoolgirl again, the court heard.

Turning to the harm Clarke had caused, the judge said the victim’s family felt compelled to move out of their home which had many happy memories but which had been “tainted” by the attack in the very place she should have felt most safe.

The teenager had to resit exams and that had meant her university plans had been delayed by a year and still to the present day, “she struggles to let her guard down with people”.

As regards mitigating factors, Clarke did plead guilty although it was not at the earliest opportunity with several trial dates listed and adjourned, he had a good work record, has expressed remorse and has just turned 18 at the time.

In addition to jailing Clarke, Judge Rafferty ordered him to sign the police sex offenders register for life and imposed a 10 year Sexual Offences Prevention Order.

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