Pensioner said he preferred girls between 14 and 16 years of age

An elderly man accused of offering two 12 year old school girls money to spend the night with him, was convicted at Dundalk Circuit Court last week.

An elderly man accused of offering two 12 year old school girls money to spend the night with him, was convicted at Dundalk Circuit Court last week.

Peter Clarke (68) of Tully, Corcreaghy, Louth had denied inviting the then first year students to participate in a sexual act at a location in Dundalk on the ninth of September 2011.

Clarke was former charged with two counts of sexual exploitation of a child contrary to section 3 of the Child trafficking and Pornography Act – inviting a child to participate in a sexual act.

The jurors - nine men and three women, returned the guilty verdict last Wednesday afternoon following less than 30 minutes of deliberations.

Earlier in the day the court heard that the defendant told gardai he would have been in Dundalk around the time of the alleged incident to collect his pension from the Post Office on Clanbrassil Street.

He admitted offering the girls five euro and that he was driving a Jaguar which he was shown on Garda CCTV footage.

He told the investigating officers that it was the only one of its’ kind in Dundalk and confirmed that he was the man on the footage who was seen to approach two girls in school uniform outside the premises.

During questioning he said he has a preference for young girls aged 13, 14 or 16,his size or smaller but not really big girls as he said he was afraid they would hit him.

When the girls allegations were put to him and he was asked if he recalled the encounter, the 68 year old said “No I don’t - I probably did it”

When he was asked if he wanted to have sex with the two schoolgirls the pensioner replied “I don’t know. I’d say I did yes”

And when it was further put to him that he had invited them to take part in a sexual act and he now knew that “it’s wrong and against the law” Peter Clarke replied “Yes” .

At the end of the interview he said “I’m sorry”.

When the Defence pointed out the accused agreed with every proposition put to him apart from when he denied wearing a ‘farmer’s jumper’, the investigating garda replied that the defendant had replied to all questions put to him.

The jurors had previously heard how the second level students were sitting outside a premises on their lunch hour.

The first girl – who is now 14, said a “chubby man” with a distinctive facial feature approached, put a fiver on the table and went back to his car.

She said that he stared at them and then returned and asked them to spend the night in bed with him and she claimed that he said “we’d love that”.

Her friend gave evidence that the man was smiling as he approached them and that he threw money on the table and said something like “is there any chance of me and you two lovely ladies tonight?”.

A member of staff in the premises told how she’d seen a man slip money to the girls and put his hand on one of their hands.

Her colleague said she’d seen the man touch one of the girls on the lower back as he was talking to them and he gave them money. She said the man drove off in a navy or green car.

The girls’ principal told how they had returned to school in a distressed and upset state and their parents and the gardai were contacted.

In his closing speech at the end of the trial, Prosecutor Kevin Segrave told the jury there was no doubt that the language used was of the nature of a sexual invitation, while Senior Defence Counsel Roderick O’Hanlon argued what was actually said was not the offence his client is accused of and they had to be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt, to convict.

Judge Rory MacCabe remanded the defendant in custody to Dundalk Circuit Court on October 29th when the case has been listed for mention only - with a view to having sentencing finalised in Dublin on the ninth of December.