Derby

Catholic Church inquiry over paedophile priest Francis Paul Cullen

Francis Paul Cullen in the 1960s and in 2013 Image copyright Unknown/ police in Spain
Image caption Francis Paul Cullen abused children in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire while serving as a priest in several parishes

The Catholic Church says it will carry out an investigation into how one of its priests carried out child abuse for more than 30 years.

Francis Paul Cullen, 85, admitted 21 counts of child sex abuse in Derbyshire and Nottingham from 1957 to 1991.

The Association of Child Abuse Lawyers has questioned why the priest, who evaded arrest for 21 years in Tenerife, was not investigated sooner.

The church said it received no complaints of abuse at the time.

'Absolutely confident'

Cullen, who pleaded guilty to the charges on Monday, will be sentenced at Derby Crown Court on 24 March.

Father Andrew Cole, of the Diocese of Nottingham, said an internal disciplinary procedure would start after Cullen's court case was over.

The matter will ultimately be reported to The Vatican, he said.

"There is no evidence that this was reported in anyway whatsoever to the church," Father Cole added.

"I am absolutely confident that this couldn't happen now."

Cullen retired from the church in September 1991.

'Tagged as paedophile'

But David Greenwood, of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers and the National Committee of the Ministry and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors, said: "Surely parents must have been raising questions, surely children were saying something to parents and parents reporting it to priests and bishops.

"Why wasn't that communicated through and investigated? Why wasn't he tagged as being a paedophile much earlier?"

Cullen admitted abusing five boys and two girls, aged six to 16, connected to churches in Mackworth and Buxton in Derbyshire and Hyson Green in Nottingham, between 1957 and 1991.

He skipped bail in 1991 and evaded police for 21 years until he was arrested on the Spanish island of Tenerife.

Derbyshire Police have urged any other victims who have not yet come forward to contact them.

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