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'vulnerable' Mother of autistic man falsely accused of rape says sentence to 'wicked' woman not long enough

Chantelle Clarke from Bangor was handed a 12-month sentence suspended for two years

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Chantelle Clarke

Chantelle Clarke

Chantelle Clarke

The mother of an autistic man falsely accused of rape has expressed disappointment at the sentence handed down to the woman who made the “wicked” allegations.

Chantelle Clarke (22), from Pinehill Road in Bangor, was on Friday handed a 12-month prison sentence, which was suspended for two years.

She pleaded guilty to making a false allegation of rape against Caleb Graham, who she knew. Both Clarke and Mr Graham had attended the same college.

Following the false allegations made in 2017, Mr Graham was forced to leave his IT course. He also lost job placements due to the allegation made by Clarke.

His mother, Gilly Graham, said she was “deeply disappointed” that Clarke was not given any prison time and said the sentence was not reflective of the “hell” endured by her son, who was described in court as “vulnerable”.

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Caleb Graham pictured with mum Gillian at Laganside Court in Belfast

Caleb Graham pictured with mum Gillian at Laganside Court in Belfast

Caleb Graham pictured with mum Gillian at Laganside Court in Belfast

“Caleb has been in a form of prison for five years, he’s afraid to leave the house,” she told the Belfast Telegraph.

“He doesn’t socialise, he lost so much weight — he went down to seven stone.

“This has been a devastating experience for our family.

“I think had she even to spend a few months in prison it might have hammered home the seriousness of what she’s done”.

Judges are bound by sentencing guidelines.

Sentencing Clarke at Downpatrick Crown Court, sitting in Belfast on Friday, Judge Geoffrey Millar QC described the false allegations made against Mr Graham as “wicked” and acknowledged the devastating impact it has had on the 21-year-old.

However, the judge said he recognised that both the defendant and the man she accused were “vulnerable.”

Clarke at first claimed she was raped in the toilets of the Flagship Shopping Centre in Bangor, but that she didn’t recognise her attacker.

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On February 14, 2017, Clarke contacted the PSNI and claimed that five days before, a stranger had tried to rape her in the Flagship Centre.

The following day, Clarke told police that the incident wasn’t an attempt, but rather an actual rape. Police conducted a recorded interview with Clarke, when she gave a different description of the male who she said raped her than she gave the day before.

That September, Clarke’s mother spoke to police and provided the name of a local man who she said her daughter had named as her attacker.

Clarke then spoke to police again on September 19, 2017, and named Mr Graham as the rapist. When asked by officers why she hadn’t named him before, Clarke said he was a friend and she didn’t want to get him into trouble. The Public Prosecution Service received a report from the PSNI and it was concluded there was no evidence whatsoever to link the man named by Clarke to the offence she said he committed.

This conclusion was based on several elements, including CCTV footage from the Flagship which proved Clarke’s claims were false.

Also considered were text messages between Clarke and the man she accused of rape, and inconsistencies in her account.

While the case against Mr Graham was dropped, police launched an investigation about Clarke’s false claims, and she was subsequently charged with perverting the course of justice.

When interviewed by police on June 19, 2020, Clarke admitted the man she named had not raped her, and she pleaded guilty to the offence.

Addressing Clarke, the judge said Mr Graham and his family “have suffered and suffered dreadfully, because what you did can only be described as wicked”.

He added: “There are very few allegations that can be made that are more serious than to suggest that somebody has raped you.

“The personal and public reaction is that that person becomes somebody that nobody wants to associate with.”

Judge Millar revealed that following the allegations, graffiti appeared in Bangor about Mr Graham, and he and his family had to move. He asked Clarke: “Can you imagine just how that would feel if somebody had said or done something like that to you? It’s horrible.”

Mrs Graham said that the graffiti was intended to put her son’s life at risk. The family were informed that a wall close to a local school had been daubed with allegations about her son.

They later painted over the graffiti themselves.

“Hundreds of people would have passed that, bringing their children to and from school,” said Mrs Graham.

“That was intended to put Caleb at risk, the consequences could have been so much worse.”

Judge Millar imposed a 12-month sentence but said that due to Clarke’s vulnerabilities, he was taking an “exceptional course” and suspended the sentence for two years.

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