Dublin-born priest pleads guilty to sexual assault after 20 years on the run

An 85-year-old former Catholic priest from Dublin today admitted sexually assaulting seven children, including altar boys, after spending more than 20 years on the run in Spain.

Francis Paul Cullen was extradited back to the UK last year to face the charges after being traced to Tenerife.

The Catholic Church and its safeguarding board helped police to trace Cullen who was found to have attended mass at a church in Playa de las Americas every Sunday.

Today Dublin-born Cullen, looking frail in the dock, pleaded guilty to 21 charges at Derby Crown Court committed between 1957 and 1991.

The offences, on children aged between six and 16, took place while Cullen was a practising priest in Mackworth, Derbyshire and later Buxton, Derbyshire, and Hyson Green, Nottinghamshire.

Cullen pleaded guilty to 15 counts of indecent assault, five of indecency with a child and one of attempted buggery.

Judge Jonathan Gosling told Cullen that a “very substantial” custodial sentence was inevitable.

Prosecutor Sarah Knight told the court Cullen was extradited from Tenerife last year on a European arrest warrant containing a series of charges of sexual abuse.

She said further complainants had come forward and, due to the European arrest warrant, they had needed to seek the permission of the Spanish authorities to charge Cullen with further offences.

But Cullen agreed to the further charges, meaning they no longer needed to seek the authorities’ approval, the prosecutor told the court.

Following today’s guilty verdicts, the judge adjourned sentencing until March 24 at Derby Crown Court and Cullen was remanded into custody.

Speaking after today’s verdict, Detective Constable Matt Goodwin, from Derbyshire Police, said: “We are very pleased with the guilty verdict today. This will save his victims from having to attend the court and provide evidence at a trial.

“I would very much like to thank the victims of this case for coming forward to the police.

“It is due to them coming forward that Cullen had today pleaded guilty to the offences. Without their help and support, this man would still not have been brought to justice.”

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