Paedophile priest Francis Paul Cullen jailed for 15 years

Francis Paul Cullen
Francis Paul Cullen

A former priest has been jailed for 15 years for committing sex offences on children as young as six.

Francis Paul Cullen, who served at St Anne’s Catholic Church, on Terrace Road, Buxton between 1978 and 1987, pleaded guilty to the 21 charges, which involve five boys and two girls in Mackworth, Buxton and Nottingham last month.

The 85-year-old, who had been on the run for 22 years since he skipped bail in 1991, was extradited from Tenerife in August.

The charges include 15 counts of indecent assault, five counts of indecency with a child and one count of attempted buggery, now known as attempted rape, between 1957 and 1991 on children aged between six and 14.

Derby Crown Court heard on Monday that the first victim in Buxton was aged between six and 12 when she was abused. She is now 39.

The victim said she found him overbearing and scary and didn’t want to be alone with him.

She spent a lot of time at his house and recalls sitting on his knees and him bouncing her up and down, singing Swinging on a Star while touching her sexually and playing with himself.

At age 12, Cullen would kiss the victim, pushing his tongue in her mouth and touch her breasts and bottom.

In later life, she felt the effects of his abuse, turned to drink and tried to take her own life on several occasions.

The second victim in Buxton was 13 when she was abused by Cullen in 1984. She is now 43.

She got into trouble at school and Cullen paid her a visit to her home and asked her mother to speak with her alone.

He moved his chair close to hers and touched her thigh, while her parents were a few feet away.

He tried to give her a kiss but she moved away. When she went to confession, Cullen told her he loved her. The victim never went near him again.

Both female victims came forward in August, when they heard he had been extradited to the UK.

Judge Jonathan Gosling said: “You were able to continue getting away with your crimes for two reasons. First because of the position you held.

“In the years that you practised in the Catholic ministry, devout parishioners revered the priest and of course trusted him without question.

“Secondly, you were held personally in the highest esteem: formidable, charismatic, very intelligent and extremely popular. You were welcomed into parents’ homes.

“They could never have guessed that in truth you were a predatory paedophile. You were in reality cunning, devious, arrogant, despicable.

“You took full advantage of your position to satisfy your perverted lust. To say that you were a disgrace to your cloth understates your activity. This was gross hypocrisy. In a sentence, your entire life was a lie.”