Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Disgraced councillor could face new burglary charge

A disgraced Newry Mourne and Down Councillor who pleaded guilty to a charge of sexual assault last month could face new charges of burglary and possession of an offensive weapon.

Independent Councillor Patrick Clarke appeared at Downpatrick Court last Monday (12th October) accused of breaking into a neighbour’s apartment with a hammer on September 5th and damaging a mug. The case was adjourned however until October 29th when it was revealed that Mr Clarke’s neighbour had since made a withdrawal statement about the alleged burglary, which will now be examined by prosecutors.

The Councillor was also in court to be sentenced in relation to the sexual assault of a woman on December 23rd last year, but sentencing was adjourned to consider the imposition of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order.

The sexual assault charge is the second conviction for the 41 year old councillor who is currently on probation after he admitted defrauding a local community group out of almost £2,000. The fraud occurred when he was chairman of Drumaroad Community Regeneration Ltd and centred around forged cheques.

The potential new charge could cast further doubt over the councillor’s future as a member of the Indy-Alliance group of councillors which was formed less than two months ago when six councillors amalgamated to make up the third largest grouping on the new super council behind Sinn Fein and the SDLP.

The group comprises of councillors Cadogan Enright from Downpatrick, Patrick Brown, an Alliance politician from Rowallane, Jarlath Tinnelly, who represents the Crotlieve electoral area and Kevin McAteer and Davy Hyland who represent Newry town.  No action has yet been taken against Councillor Clarke despite the matter having been discussed by the Indy-Alliance group earlier this month, when the group met got the full Council meeting.

Mr Clarke himself has indicated that he would not be resigning from his position as a councillor and under the Local Government Act 1972, the Council cannot disqualify him unless he is imprisoned for more than three months