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Sask. man extradited to Northern Ireland to face historical sexual abuse charges

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A former Meadow Lake pastor has been extradited to Belfast, Ireland to face charges for sexual offences that occurred in the 1970s.

In a 2017 BBC documentary, Henry Clarke admitted to sexually assaulting teenage boys in care homes in Northern Ireland. The offences allegedly occurred between 1966 and 1977, according to an Aug. 9 Saskatchewan Court of Appeal decision.

On Friday, the Police Service of Northern Ireland said the 81-year-old was extradited and “arrested by virtue of an international warrant.” He was expected to appear in Belfast Magistrates’ Court on Saturday.

RCMP confirmed Clarke turned himself in at the Meadow Lake detachment on August 10.

Clarke, who was born in Belfast, previously admitted to abusing the teens in the mid-1980s. However, according to the decision, UK officials did not lay charges because of the amount of time that had elapsed.

Following a 2016 report of an inquiry into institutional abuse in Northern Ireland and the subsequent BBC documentary, prosecutors in the UK reconsidered the 1985 decision and charged Clarke with three counts of indecent assault.

“You can’t walk away from it. It’s always part of you. There’s something always there reminding you of what you’ve done,” Clarke said, speaking to CTV News in 2017 in the wake of the BBC News coverage.

“What I did, I did. I’m very ashamed of that," said Clarke, who served as pastor at Meadow Lake's Alliance Church until 1990.

Clarke asked the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal for a judicial review of a federal decision permitting his extradition to Northern Ireland.

According to the court's decision, released in August, Clarke's submission to Canada's attorney general argued his advanced age and health concerns should be taken into account, as well as his role as a caregiver for his wife who is "frail and has memory issues" and an adult son in his care who has special needs.

The submission also said that when Clarke first confessed in 1985, he knew he would likely be charged and sentenced to prison. Clarke was 43-years-old at the time and the submission stated he was in good health and "would have been much better able to physically tolerate jail time."

Clarke's submission argued that Northern Ireland's "extreme delay" and the "unjustified reversal" of its initial decision not to prosecute, constituted grounds to refuse the extradition request.

The appeal court dismissed Clarke's request for a review.

In the court's written decision, Justice Robert W. Leurer said it was ultimately up to the federal minister to "weigh these matters and consider them against those that favoured ordering Mr. Clarke's surrender."

Speaking to BBC News in 2017, a then 61-year-old Billy Brown recounted the abuse he said he suffered at the hands of Clarke when he was 12 years old.

"You just had to stay away from him," said Brown, who described Clarke as a "monster."

"You went to bed at night. You pulled your blankets around you as tightly as you could."

--With files from Angelina King, Kevin Menz and Josh Lynn

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