Leeds & West Yorkshire

Bradford priest William Finnegan jailed for sexual assault

A priest has been jailed for six months for sexually assaulting a teenage girl, in what a judge described as an "enormous breach of trust".

William Finnegan, 60, "passionately" kissed the 17-year-old and touched her bottom at St Clare's Roman Catholic Church in Fagley, Bradford last Easter.

He was sentenced at Bradford Crown Court after he was found guilty by a jury.

During the trial it emerged he had been secretly married since 1999.

The Recorder of Bradford, Judge Roger Thomas QC, said Finnegan was "in denial" about the offence which had led to his "considerable fall from grace"

'Why did he lie?'

The judge told the court: "I don't know what motivates him but maybe it's because he cannot afford to lose so much face and be in a state of shame in front of those who support him."

The judge said Finnegan, of Acacia Close, Castleford, "became sexually attracted" to the victim, referred to in court as B.

"On Easter Sunday, you did not restrain yourself and you acted out of your sexual attraction to B by committing this offence of sexual assault," he added.

"You had not only physically molested her but you had also put her in a massively difficult position in being able to report what you, as a priest, had done to her."

In an impact statement read out in court, the victim said: "One of the main issues that's affected me is Father Bill could lie and put me through a trial.

"Why did he do that? He is supposed to be a man of God."

Sexual relationship

The judge also criticised some of Finnegan's parishioners who stood by their former priest.

"He's such a good man in their eyes. Maybe some of them would believe the sun would rise in the west tomorrow if he said it," he told the court.

Finnegan was suspended after allegations about the assault emerged and has been told he will not be able to return to the priesthood.

During the trial it emerged Finnegan had secretly married Beverley Dawson in Cyprus after meeting her at his former parish in Castleford.

The disclosure of his relationship came after Ms Dawson was called by the court to give evidence.

She said she and her husband had never permanently lived together but saw each other regularly, had a sexual relationship and went on holidays together.

Finnegan was ordered to sign the sex offenders register for seven years.

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