Former teacher (79) charged with indecent assault of a pupil is remanded in custody at court in Ballymena

Former teacher (79) charged with indecent assault of a pupil is remanded in custody at court in Ballymena

A 79-YEAR-OLD former teacher alleged to have indecently assaulted a male pupil in the 1990s has been remanded in custody at court in Ballymena.

Court News NI reports that Patrick Gerard Sharkey, originally from Donegal but now with an address at Route D'Oradour in Linards in central France, is charged with indecent assault between May 1995 and September 1, 1996.

He appeared via video link from Belfast at Antrim Magistrates' Court, sitting in Ballymena (main picture), on Tuesday.

A PSNI Detective Constable said the defendant was arrested on foot of a warrant.

She said one case file "relates to two victims and there are six offences in total, six counts of indecent assault".

She added: "They are historical allegations".

The court was told police had been contemplating extradition proceedings but the defendant had then been arrested in England on Saturday night when he had flown in to visit "family" in the Midlands.

A defence barrister said Mr Sharkey had moved to France "upon his retirement" in 2005 and had been there for 17 years where he currently lives on his own.

Opposing bail, a prosecutor said there was a "risk of flight" as the defendant's permanent address is in France.

The Court heard papers for a Preliminary Enquiry - the legal step to send the case to the Crown Court - are being drawn up.

The court heard the alleged offences relate to the 1990s.

The police officer said the first allegation came to police attention in 2018 and a "second victim came forward in 2019".

She said a "former teacher" had contacted the police in connection with the case.

The defence barrister said Mr Sharkey had been unaware complaints had been made and had "never been interviewed in relation to these allegations".

The defendant did not have a bail address in Northern Ireland "but he has a friend who lives in Coleraine who we are trying to get in touch with and confirm an address and possibly even a surety".

Any bail address could be monitored with a curfew; electronic tagging; regular signing at a police station and the surrender of documents.

The barrister added: "He is a 79-year-old man who has no record. He is an Irish citizen, originally from Donegal. The complaints arose around 2018/19, he doesn't know anything about them until this weekend and he has been living in France since his retirement. Having been there in his youth he had decided to retire to France and has been there for some 17 years. He previously worked as a teacher".

The lawyer said the arrest on foot of a warrant when the defendant landed in England at the weekend "came as a complete surprise to him" and he was "entitled to a presumption of innocence in respect of these allegations. He says he knows nothing about them".

The barrister said the defendant has "health conditions" and recently had a heart attack.

In terms of risk of flight, he said Mr Sharkey's passport had been seized.

The lawyer continued: "He wasn't a fugitive during his time in France, he was living there entirely lawfully without knowing there were potential criminal proceedings coming forward in Northern Ireland".

Deputy District Judge Austin Kennedy said the "quite serious allegations" related to the complainants being "young persons at school" whilst the defendant "was in his occupation as a school teacher".

The judge said he had a "very difficult balance" concerning bail which he refused on the basis of a "risk of flight".

The defendant was remanded in custody to appear at Coleraine Magistrates' Court via video link on June 13.

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