Belfast Telegraph

Ex-Northern Ireland school bus driver cleared of sexually assaulting teen

James McCluskey was acquitted of the charges (stock photo)
James McCluskey was acquitted of the charges (stock photo)

By Michael Donnelly

A former school bus driver has been acquitted of sexually assaulting a teenager he first met while driving him to primary school years earlier.

It had taken the Belfast Crown Court jury of six women and six men over fours hours over several days of deliberation to unanimously find 64-year-old James McCluskey, from Arazonia Street in west Belfast, not guilty on Monday.

Mr McCluskey had always denied the two charges against him, one of sexual assault and one of inciting a child to take indecent images of himself, both in November 2013 when the teenager was 16.

By their verdict the jury accepted his assertions there was "absolutely" no truth in the allegations against him and they were all, "total, total, total lies".

They also rejected the prosecution contention there was "a clear compelling case" against the former bus driver, and that he was "caught out lying time and again" when questioned by police.

During his trial Mr McCluskey accepted that he had taken the 16-year-old for a meal to a KFC, but rejected suggestions he had indecently assaulted the youth in the restaurant car park, or that they had gone there more than once.

The former bus driver maintained he "had no sexual interest in him at all", and had only taken him for a meal, "just to catch up with him, and to see how he was getting on, and for no other reason".

He also told his defence counsel Sean O'Hare he totally rejected any claim of sexually assaulting the teenager in his car.

"Nothing untoward happened in that car park in KFC... I totally refute that... absolutely, totally refute that," he said.

During the trial Mr O'Hare pointed out several inconsistencies in the evidence of the teenager, who could not be sure as to what occurred in Mr McCluskey's car, and claims of being taken to Glengormley on more than one occasion.

The defence lawyer had also pointed out that it was only after Mr McCluskey had gone to the teenager's family to tell them of taking him out for the meal that the alleged assault was reported.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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