Former Peterborough and St Neots priest guilty of historic child sex offences


January 31, 2023

By John Elworthy

A retired Roman Catholic priest Dennis Finbow formerly from Cambridgeshire has been found guilty of three historic sex offences against a child.

Fr Dennis Finbow, a retired priest of the Diocese of East Anglia, was convicted by a jury at Huntingdon Crown Court.

He gone on trial accused of five counts of indecently assaulting a girl and one of indecently assaulting a boy.

Following a six-day trial, Fr Finbow was convicted of three counts of indecent assault on a child and found not guilty of the remaining three offences.

Fr Finbow, 74, who now lives in Martlesham, Suffolk, denied all six counts of indecent assault.

During his time in Cambridgeshire, Fr Finbow held posts at Littlehey prison, St Joseph’s Church in St Neots and at Dogsthorpe, Peterborough.

The trial was told by the prosecution that when Fr Finbow was interviewed by police he described the allegations as nonsense and “a fabrication”.

Fr Finbow was charged in January 2022 by officers from Cambridgeshire Police with the offences relating to his service as a Catholic priest in Peterborough in the 1980s and 1990s.

He has been released on unconditional bail for sentence at Huntingdon Crown Court on March 8.

Rt Rev Peter Collins, Bishop of East Anglia said: “Following Fr Finbow’s conviction, I shall now be seeking urgent legal advice regarding initiating the process of his laicisation (removal of his clerical status and rights), in accordance with our safeguarding policies and procedures.

“Fr Finbow has been retired and not in active ministry since 2001.

“Prior to his retirement he had served in parishes in Peterborough and St Neots, Cambridgeshire.”

Bishop Peter said: “The safeguarding of children and vulnerable people is of paramount importance to the Catholic Church and the Diocese of East Anglia has co-operated fully with the police and other statutory authorities throughout this investigation.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victim in this case and also other victims of child sexual abuse.

“We would encourage any victim of child sexual abuse perpetrated within the Catholic Church context to make contact either directly through our Safeguarding Office or with Safe Spaces, our Victim Support Service.

“Should anyone have any concerns or queries about the Dennis Finbow case then I would encourage them to contact Mick Thurley, our Diocesan Safeguarding Coordinator on 07429 215344”

Fr Finbow – convicted today of historic child sex offences – had previously faced a police inquiry – in 2001.

Cambridgeshire police issued a statement at the time that despite his arrest on suspicion of indecent assault, he had been released  with no further action.

“The decision was taken by police and the Crown Prosecution Service.”

However Fr Finbow did face an internal probe by church authorities despite being cleared by Cambridgeshire police at the time of an alleged indecent assault.

At the time he had been suspended from his post at St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, St Neots, in Cambridgeshire.

The then Bishop of East Anglia, the Rt Rev Peter Smith, sent a message at the time to Fr  Finbow’s church. It was read out at masses.

It reads: “I’m sure many of you will be aware that following the police enquiry there will be no prosecution of Fr Dennis.

“However the Church’s Pastoral and Procedural Guidelines (1994) require that ‘while legal proceeding may not be pursued through the courts, there remains an obligation on the Church authorities to review the pastoral consequences of such a situation’.

“This review will be undertaken by the Diocesan Child Protection Team during the coming week. Fr Dennis is aware of this requirement and is very calm about it.

“He fully accepts that the Church’s own Guidelines and Procedures must be followed in his own interests and those of everyone involved. In the meanwhile, I ask you to keep him and all those concerned very much in your prayers.”

An investigation by the East Anglian Daily Times reported that Fr  Finbow was ordained as a priest at St Pancras’ Church in Tacket Street, Ipswich, in 1980.

“The former Rushmere and Copleston school pupil is the international director of The Project for Bolivia charity, set up 11 years ago to help hundreds of street children in the country,” said their report.

“Many parishioners were said to have been in tears at the announcement of his suspension by the Church.”

The newspaper reported that two years earlier the “pipe-smoking, football-mad cleric who supports Ipswich Town, ran the London and Boston marathons on consecutive days.

“Only last year the parish priest cycled more than 1,000 miles from Land’s End to John O’Groats to raise tens of thousands of pounds for The Project for Bolivia.

“One of five children, he had been a psychiatric nurse before taking his vows.”

During his eight years at Our Lady of Lourdes in Peterborough he is said to have boosted the congregation from 200 to 1,000 in two years.