Update: Cullen died at HMP Oakwood in Wolverhampton aged 89

March 2014

A priest who sexually assaulted seven children before spending more than two decades on the run in Spain has been jailed


Francis Paul Cullen abused the boys and girls between 1957 and 1991, when he was a priest in Derbyshire and Nottingham.

The 85-year-old pleaded guilty to 21 offences last month after being traced to Tenerife then extradited to the UK.

At Derby Crown Court, he was jailed for a total of 15 years.

Judge Jonathan Gosling told him: “You took full advantage of your position, and the trust in which you were held, to satisfy your perverted lust.

“It is impossible to reconcile the fact that you were administering the sacraments of the Catholic Church – baptism, confession, communion, confirmation – at the same time as you were indulging yourself with these children, some of whom served you on the altar at which you celebrated.

“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.

“You were, in reality, cunning, devious, arrogant – in the word of one of your victims ‘despicable’.”

The clergyman was due to go on trial at Derby Crown Court last month but admitted his guilt on what would have been the first day.

Police believe there could be other victims who have not yet come forward.

Cullen’s youngest known victim was six years old, and his oldest was 14. They included five altar boys and two young girls, some of whom were in court for sentencing.

Father Andrew Cole, Diocese of Nottingham spokesman, said the Bishop of Nottingham had asked the Holy See to “dismiss Cullen from the clerical state in view of him having pleaded guilty to the offences”.

Cullen will still technically be a priest, but will never function as one again, Father Cole said.

The defendant fled to Tenerife in 1991 while facing charges of sexual assault brought by Nottinghamshire Police.

He was born in Dublin, but he abused the children while working as a priest in Mackworth and Buxton, both in Derbyshire, and Hyson Green, in Nottingham.

He also worked in Scunthorpe, Leicester and Alfreton.

Timeline of abuse

  • 1953 – Dublin-born Paul Cullen is ordained as a priest in Birmingham

  • 1957 – He worked at Christ the King church, Mackworth, when the earliest abuse happened

  • He later served at St Anne’s church in Buxton

  • Late 1980s – He served at St Mary’s in Hyson Green, Nottingham

  • 1991 – He retired from the church because of “ill health”

  • The same year he appeared at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court on charges of sexual abuse but skipped bail a month later

  • 2012 – Found on Tenerife after police circulated information

  • February 2014 – He pleads guilty at Derby Crown Court to 21 offences

  • April 2014 – Jailed for 15 years

February 2014

Paedophile priest admits abusing children in East Midlands

An 85-year-old Catholic priest has pleaded guilty to a series of child-related sex offences after being extradited from Tenerife.

In a hearing at Derby Crown Court, Francis Paul Cullen admitted 21 counts of indecent assault on seven children.

The abuse of boys and girls aged six to 16 took place from 1957 to 1991.

Cullen, born in Dublin, worked in Scunthorpe, Leicester, Nottingham and Alfreton, Buxton and Mackworth, Derbyshire.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Nottingham said he was pleased Cullen had “taken responsibility for his terrible crimes”.

Cullen was first arrested in Nottingham in 1991, but he skipped bail andfled to Tenerife in Spain where he lived for more than 20 years.

Cullen will be sentenced on 24 March.

Father Andrew Cole, spokesman for the Diocese of Nottingham, said: “I would like to offer our sympathy to those who have been affected by this tragedy in any way and assure them that we will do whatever we can to support them.

“I also wish to thank Cullen’s victims for their bravery in coming forward after many years of silence; it is due to them that Cullen has pleaded guilty.

“Nothing can take away the horror of what happened to them, but I hope that today’s verdict will help them in some small way to find peace.”

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

“Given the length of the offending history of this investigation, which lasted from 1955 to 1991, I believe it is inconceivable that there are not more victims of this man’s crimes,” Det Con Matt Goodwin said.

Cullen worked as a priest at the Mackworth parish of Christ the King in Derbyshire between 1960 and 1978.

He was parish priest in Buxton from 1978-87 and in Hyson Green, Nottingham from 1988-91.

He retired in September 1991.