Ralph Clarke
Ralph Clarke is believed to be the oldest person to be convicted of a crime in UK Joe Giddens/ PA

A 101-year-old child abuser who became the oldest person to be convicted of a crime in UK legal history has been jailed for 13 years for assaulting three young siblings in the 1970s and early 80s.

Ralphe Clarke, of Birmingham, was found guilty of 21 counts of indecent assault and gross indecency relating to the two girls by a jury. He previously admitted to two counts of attempting to commit a serious sexual offence, two of indecency with a child and five indecent assaults against the boy during a trial at Birmingham Crown Court.

Police said Clarke, a retired lorry driver, abused the girls, who were aged between four and 13 , at his home in Erdington, in the cab of his truck and in his garden shed. He also attempted to rape their brother several times when he was an infant.

Clarke denied the charges against him relating to the two girls – who came forward soon after Clarke reached his 100th birthday – and accused them of being serial liars during his trial at Birmingham Crown Court.

After being found guilty of all but one charge against him relating the two girls and admitting to abusing the boy, the 101-year-old has now been jailed for 13 years.

Detective Constable Emma Fennon from West Midlands Police's Historic Sex Offences Unit, said: "I'd like to welcome the decision of the jury in convicting Ralph Clarke. He subjected three young children − who were aged between four and 13-years-old at the time − to unspeakable abuse over many years. He took advantage of their vulnerability and they have lived with the emotional and psychological scars from that abuse for decades.

"There are people who may question the public interest in taking a man aged 101 to court. What I'd say is that age alone should be no defence. We worked closely with colleagues at the Crown Prosecution Service and Clarke's age and wellbeing were considered.

"But given the serious nature of the offences, the breach of trust and vulnerability of the young victims, it was decided that a prosecution was in the public interest.

Fennon added: "This case goes to show that it is never too late to report sexual offences − even if the abuse happened may years, even decades, earlier we can still put compelling cases to juries. West Midlands Police will always take reports seriously and do all we can to support victims and punish offenders.

"And I'd finally like to pay tribute to the courage and determination of Ralph Clarke's victims in coming forward and disclosing these offences to us. I hope they can take some comfort from today's verdict and finally move on with their lives."