Sex pest priest jailed for attacking teenager in church

William Finnegan
William Finnegan

A Roman Catholic priest from Castleford who sexually abused a 17-year-old girl in his church has been jailed.

William Finnegan, 59, of Acacia Close, was sentenced to six months in prison for sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl at St Clare’s RC Church in Bradford.

A jury heard how Finnegan – known as Father Bill to his parishioners – denied telling the girl he loved her, grabbing her bottom and kissing her passionately on the lips on Easter Sunday last year.

Record of Bradford Roger Thomas jailed the former parish priest last week following a trial at Bradford Crown Court, calling his actions a “very considerable fall from grace.”

He added: “You’ve also caused real damage to the wider church community, particularly perhaps the Catholic Church, and at a time when such churches can ill afford such damage.

“You clearly cannot face up to your wrongdoing here, perhaps because of the shame and loss of face.”

Finnegan revealed in court that he had also broken his vows of celibacy by secretly marrying former parishioner Beverley Dawson in 1999, who he did not live with but saw regularly. The Diocese of Leeds has now banned him from the priesthood for life for his double breaches of trust.

Monsignor John Wilson, administrator for the Diocese, expressed his ‘sorrow and regret’ to the victim after the former priest was jailed.

He added: “I realise that this has been a very difficult and distressing time for you and your family and I hope that this sentence will help in the healing process.

“The Diocese is committed to ensuring the safety and protection of every child and vulnerable person in our parishes and there are robust safeguarding policies and procedures in operation throughout this Diocese - and indeed the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

“As with this case, any abuse reported to the Diocese is referred to the police and other relevant authorities and the Diocese of Leeds cooperated fully with police throughout this case.”