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Former pastor accused of sex offences appears in court after being extradited from Canada

At Belfast Magistrates Court police confirmed that they had executed a warrant for the arrest of the 81-year-old man (Photo: Contributed)
At Belfast Magistrates Court police confirmed that they had executed a warrant for the arrest of the 81-year-old man (Photo: Contributed)

With James Henry Clarke standing in the dock of Belfast Magistrates Court wearing a grey tracksuit on Saturday, a PSNI Constable Richardson confirmed that he executed a warrant for the arrest of the 81-year-old and that he had signed and endorsed that warrant.

The officer also agreed that subject to an address approved by the police, the defendant could be freed on bail on conditions that he has a named surety and surrenders his passport.

A prosecuting lawyer told the court that papers for a Preliminary Enquiry, the legal step necessary to elevate any criminal case to the Crown Court, “are in the process of being prepared”.

Clarke faces three counts of indecent assault of a male alleged to have been committed over a global time span between 1 January 1966 and 14 May 1974.

In relation to the first alleged victim, Clarke is charged with two offences of indecent assault between 1 January 1966 and 1 January 1972 while in relation to a second complainant, he faces one charge alleged to have been committed between 14 May 1970 and 14 May 1974.

Granting bail in the sum of £500 with a surety of £500, District Judge Amanda Henderson freed Clarke but told the pensioner he would have to surrender his passport “forthwith,” even though it’s out of date and that he has to reside at the bail address put forward but which was not disclosed to the court.

He is due to appear again this Friday, 22 September.

Applying for legal aid, defence solicitor Nuala Warke confirmed that Clarke is retired and “has been in custody in Canada for some time.”

She also indicated that the defence would be seeking a reporting restriction on Clarke’s Northern Irish bail address when the case is next before the court this Friday.

Citing his advancing years, that he has two disabled sons and was the sole carer for his wife, Clarke, who had lived in Meadow Lake in Saskatchewan, Canada, had fought extradition but the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal upheld a federal decision to surrender him for extradition to Northern Ireland.

In a PSNI statement on Friday, Detective Chief Inspector Jill Duffie said: “The arrest is an another example of partnership working between Canadian authorities and the Police Service of Northern Ireland's International Policing Unit.

“Our message is clear that we will relentlessly pursue those who are trying to delay or deny justice to victims of crime.”