Belfast Telegraph

Ex-school bus driver sexually assaulted former teen passenger, court hears

James McCluskey, from Arazonia Street in west Belfast, denies two charges against him (stock photo)
James McCluskey, from Arazonia Street in west Belfast, denies two charges against him (stock photo)

By Michael Donnelly

An ex-school bus driver sexually assaulted one of his former schoolboy passengers years after they'd parted company and tried to get him to send indecent pictures and messages, a court has heard.

Belfast Crown Court also heard on Tuesday that when police confronted 64-year-old James McCluskey about the allegations he told "lie after lie, after lie" about his involvement with the then-teenager.

And the proof behind it all, prosecutor David Russell claimed, could be found "in that little device we all carry now, the mobile phone", because police were able to access material from McCluskey and his victim's mobiles, allegedly demonstrating the extent of the contact between them.

McCluskey, from Arazonia Street in west Belfast, denies two charges against him, one of sexual assault and one of inciting a child to take indecent images of himself, both allegedly committed in November 2013 when he was aged 58 and the teenager was 16.

In his opening statement to Judge Neil Rafferty QC and the jury of six women and six men, Mr Russell claimed the age difference was "one of the striking interests of this case".

He also questioned why an elderly man would be interested in a teenager he allegedly offered money and gifts to, while telling him to keep it all secret, "and why would he tell lies when spoken to by police?"

The prosecution claimed that, years after driving him to primary school, McCluskey had met up with him and took him out in his car and sexually assaulted him. The teenager, in his video taped interview with police, told how he'd complained to McCluskey "you're doing something to me I don't like", and pleaded with him to take him home.

"What the teenager was describing," claimed Mr Russell, "was a lengthy and unwanted sexual assault on him".

In a second taped interview the teenager further claimed that while he took "dirty pictures" of himself at McCluskey's behest, he never sent them on, nor did he comply with his request for "sexy messages" to be texted to him.

Mr Russell also claimed that in the wake of the alleged assault McCluskey called on the teenager's aunt "out of the blue" and, because he might have been spotted out with her nephew, he "just wanted you to know there is no funny business and there's nothing going on".

McCluskey was first interviewed by police in January 2014, and again in March 2016, during which he admitted that he knew he was under investigation, claiming that in the seven or eight years since driving the teenager to school in his bus, he'd "sort of kept contact with him over the years".

He further claimed that he invited him out "to catch up with him... no other reason... just to chat with him", and that the boy's aunt, "had no problem with that", although he accepted he never sought her approval beforehand as "he did not think it was appropriate to do that".

Claiming that this was "common sense turned on its head," Crown counsel claimed that McCluskey was constantly telling "lie after lie after lie" to police about his involvement and that his interviews "were full of lies".

Mr Russell alleged that McCluskey also did not want police to know he had the teenager's mobile number "because it was a big problem for him". 

However when police did uncover the extent of the mobile traffic between them, McCluskey claimed there was "nothing derogatory or anything wrong", nor was they anything "unlawful" in the multiple messages.

In conclusion he claimed the former bus driver had "inserted himself into the teenagers life for his own sexual gratification ...and when confronted by police is caught out lying time and again" and that there was "a clear compelling case, and clear compelling evidence, of the guilt of the accused".

The trial continues.

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