Northern Ireland

Abuse victim hopeful for justice after former pastor being extradited from Canada back to Northern Ireland

Henry Clarke confessed to abusing boys at care homes in Northern Ireland. Picture by BBC
Henry Clarke confessed to abusing boys at care homes in Northern Ireland. Picture by BBC

Decades after being sexually abused in a Newtownabbey care home, a victim of a former Northern Ireland pastor being extradited from Canada has spoken of his hopes of finally getting justice.

Henry Clarke previously admitted to abusing three boys at Northern Ireland care homes during the 1960s and 1970s.

Having moved to Canada in the 1970s, he is now aged in his eighties and a court ruling from Canadian authorities has ordered his extradition back to Northern Ireland within 45 days.

One of his victims, William Brown (67), has previously waived his anonymity to talk about his experiences.

Speaking about the latest development on his behalf, Mr Brown’s solicitor Joe Rice told The Irish News his client still suffers from nightmares 50 years after Clarke abused him as a teenager.

“My client is anxious that this man is brought to justice in Northern Ireland without any delay,” he said.

William Brown previously spoke to the BBC in 2017. Picture, BBC.
William Brown previously spoke to the BBC in 2017. Picture, BBC.

Originally from east Belfast, Mr Brown was in the Bawnmore Children’s home between 1965 to 1972 where Mr Rice said he was sexually assaulted “by a number of people” who worked there.

“He has suffered a horrific childhood and the issue of Clarke’s extradition has been hanging over him for years,” he said.

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Mr Rice said his client’s complaints about Clarke have only started to have been taken seriously in recent years.

“There have been a number of reports into sexual abuse in Northern Ireland over the years, and yet the matter of delays around Clarke’s extradition needs further explanations at the end of the criminal justice process.”

Describing the impact on Mr Brown’s life, he said: “He would say that he has lived with this hell from childhood to present and will do until his death.

“He has tried suicide on many occasions, self-harmed, overdoses and regularly uses medication including anti-depressants.

“Nightmares every night, going on 50 years, and he has fought (for Clarke’s extradition) from the start and hopefully he will see him brought before a court in Northern Ireland.”

The Belfast Telegraph reported that Clarke first made admissions to the RUC after returning to Northern Ireland for a holiday in 1985.

Despite this, he was not charged as it was felt too much time had passed between his offences and confession.

The Canadian authorities were not told of this development at the time.

Clarke’s confession included the abuse of a boy at Bawnmore House care home in Newtownabbey as well as another boy at the Firmount Hostel in Antrim.

After the RUC agreed to let him return to Canada, he wrote another letter to them to admit he abused a third boy at the Conway House Children’s Home.

Clarke’s victims were previously among those who gave evidence to the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry, headed by the late Sir Anthony Hart, which published its findings in 2017.

Following this, the journalist Kevin Magee travelled to Canada to interview Clarke, who admitted abusing teenage boys in care homes between January 1966 and January 1972.

Clarke told him: “At that time, I would not have used the word paedophile because I would never (have) thought of it, but subsequently as years have gone on, I realised that is the proper word for what I had done.

“Always in the back of my mind I knew what I was doing was wrong.”

A new investigation was ordered after the documentary aired, but Clarke had resisted extradition on account of his age, having two disabled sons and caring for his wife.

After reaching the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, the decision to extradite him was upheld.

The case went all the way to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, which upheld a federal decision to surrender him for extradition to Northern Ireland.

Clarke is now living in the Meadow Lake area of central Canada and his lawyer Chris Veeman said his client would not fight the latest decision to extradite him.

Speaking to the broadcaster CBC, he said: “The Canadian government will arrange transport for him and then hand him over.”

He added that he did not know how the Northern Ireland authorities would proceed, with Clarke expected to appear in court in Belfast once the handover is completed.