abhorrent | 

Belfast man who raped schoolgirl twice in 24 hours sentenced to five years

Judge Rafferty also ordered Darren Clarke (22) to sign the sex offenders register for life and imposed a 10-year SOPO

Paul HigginsBelfast Telegraph

A west Belfast man who twice raped a teenage schoolgirl within 24 hours has been sentenced for just over five years.

Jailing Darren Clarke (22) and ordering the sentence to be served equally between prison and supervised licence conditions, Judge Neil Rafferty KC praised the victim for her “bravery and persistence” in making sure the rapist ultimately faced justice.

He told the victim, who watched the proceedings at Newry Crown Court by videolink today, she now had the “gold standard of vindication” as Clarke confessed his own guilt.

Assuring her that while he was sentencing Clarke for his abhorrent offences, the judge said she was at the forefront of his mind.

At an earlier hearing Clarke, from Beechmount Grove in west Belfast, entered guilty pleas to a total of 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, Judge Rafferty outlined how Clarke, who was 18 at the time of the offences, had been at the victim’s house when there was an argument over his deceased mother.

The victim tried to close the door, but Clarke shoved it open and raped the 17-year-old.

“She continually pleaded with him to stop,” said the judge, but Clarke’s attack continued, and he left the victim’s home when her mother came back.

“That wasn’t the end of the matter,” Judge Rafferty told the court.

“There was toing and froing on social media that led to the fourth count and the second rape”, which took place later that day.

The judge revealed that Clarke told the victim “he was going to take tablets”.

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”. However, he raped the schoolgirl again.

Turning to address the harm Clarke had caused, the judge said the victim’s family felt compelled to move out of their home after it was “tainted” by the attack in the very place she should have felt most safe.

The teenager had to resit exams after the attacks — delaying her university plans to the present day — and “she struggles to let her guard down with people”.

Regarding mitigating factors, Clarke pleaded guilty — although not at the earliest opportunity — he had a good work record, expressed remorse and had just turned 18 at the time.

In addition to sentencing Clarke for 64 months, 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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