A retired pastor who admitted to abusing two boys in Northern Ireland in the 1960s and 1970s has received a suspended prison sentence. 

James Henry Clarke, 81, received a two-year prison sentence, suspended for three years, after admitting to abusing two teenage boys living in care homes where he worked in the 1960s and 1970s. 

Clarke, who was extradited to Northern Ireland from Canada in September, was charged with three counts of indecently assaulting two teenage boys. 

The Belfast Crown Court heard on Thursday that the first victim was abused on two occasions while staying at Bawnmore House in Newtownabbey between 1966 and 1972. 

The court heard that the first incident took place when the boy was feeling unwell in bed, while the second incident took place in Clarke's mother's home. 

The court additionally heard that the second victim was abused between May 1970 and May 1974 at Conway House Children's Home in County Antrim. 

The second victim said the abuse took place when he was on a fishing trip to Newcastle at the age of 13. 

The first victim reported the abuse to the Royal Ulster Constabulary in 1980, telling officers that Clarke had abused him when he was 13 years old.

RUC officers subsequently traveled to Canada to talk to Clarke about the allegations, which he denied. 

However, Clarke later admitted abusing the teenager during an unrelated police interview in 1985. 

In the same year, he also penned a letter to an RUC officer who had interviewed him in Canada, admitting that he had abused the second victim while he was serving as a deputy senior matron at Conway House Children's Home. 

No action was taken against Clarke at the time, despite his confessions. 

The allegations against Clarke came to light following Northern Ireland's Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry, prompting a BBC team to travel to Canada to track down the retired pastor. 

Speaking to BBC Newsline in 2017, Clarke admitted to abusing the two boys in the 1960s and 1970s and said he had admitted the abuse to the police but that no action was taken against him. 

Northern Ireland's Public Prosecution Service launched extradition proceedings on foot of Clarke's interview with the BBC. 

On Thursday, the Belfast Crown Court heard that Clarke became a church minister after emigrating to Canada in 1977 and helped set up a home for boys there. 

He was also involved in setting up a child abuse inquiry in Canada. 

Canadian authorities were never made aware of the allegations against Clarke, the court heard on Thursday. 

Delivering a suspended sentence at Thursday's hearing, Judge Reel said he was taking into consideration Clarke's admission of guilt, his health issues, and his caring responsibilities in Canada. 

The judge also noted that there was no evidence of further offending in Canada, "despite his access to children". 

Judge Reel warned Clarke of the consequences should he re-offend over the next three years.