A Bangor woman who made a “wicked” false claim that she had been raped in a shopping centre has avoided an immediate jail term.
hantelle Clarke, from Pinehill Road, appeared at Downpatrick Crown Court sitting in Belfast, where she was handed a 12-month prison sentence which was suspended for two years.
It emerged the man she claimed raped her in the toilets of the Flagship Shopping Centre in Bangor had “suffered dreadfully” as a result of her lies – including having to move house.
A barrister for 22-year-old Clarke said she had expressed remorse for the consequences of her actions and the impact it has had on the man she falsely accused.
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.
Five months later 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 the same man. 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.
Whilst the case against the man she accused 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.
As he sentenced Clarke, Judge Geoffrey Millar QC said he recognised that both the defendant and the man she accused were “vulnerable.”
Addressing Clarke, the Judge said both the man she accused 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 made against the man, graffiti appeared in Bangor about him, 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.”
Also raised were the resources wasted by investigating her false claims, which, he said, “meant that real crimes were not being investigated.”
The Judge said he had taken into account Clarke’s own “extreme vulnerability”, her clear criminal record and her guilty plea.
He said: “A case of this nature is one where frankly there can only be one type of sentence, and that is one of prison.
“A signal has to go out to anyone who seeks to destroy the life of another by making such an allegation.”
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.
Before she left the dock, Clarke was warned that any further offending within the next two years would result in her being brought back to court and re-sentenced.