'Catholic Priest Groped Girl, 17, He Fell in Love With' Court Told

By Claire Armstrong
Telegraph & Argus
March 12, 2013

Roman Catholic priest William Finnegan

A Roman Catholic priest in Bradford told a teenage girl he loved her before forcing a kiss on her and touching her bottom, a jury heard.

William Finnegan, 59, is standing trial at Bradford Crown Court accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl, who cannot be named.

Opening the case for the prosecution, Richard Walters said: “The defendant grabbed [the girl], pulled her towards him, placed a hand on her bottom and proceeded to kiss her forcefully and passionately with an open mouth.

“Two days later he visited her home address and told her he had sexual feelings towards her.”

The alleged assault happened on Easter Sunday last year, while Finnegan was parish priest at St Clare’s RC Church in Fagley, the jury was told yesterday.

Finnegan, now of Acacia Close, Castleford, denies sexual assault.

Mr Walters said the first time Finnegan saw the girl that day, he “gave her his customary hug”.

He said: “He hugged her again and said he loved her. [The girl] didn’t think there was anything sinister about it and said she loved him too.”

Mr Walters said Finnegan spoke to her again later that day.

He said: “He told her that he loved her and he asked for a hug. He put his hand on her head and one hand on her bottom.

“He kissed her, with an open mouth, on her lips. She described that as he did so, his eyes were closed.

“She said it was not the kind of kiss you would give to your mum or dad or even to a boyfriend on a first date.

“The defendant told her she was amazing and she was beautiful.”

Mr Walters said at first the girl did not tell anyone, except by texting a friend of hers.

Finnegan went to the girl’s home two days later, followed her into the kitchen and closed the door behind them, the court heard.

Mr Walters said: “She was alarmed by this, told him to get away and not to touch her.

“The defendant’s face dropped. He said he hadn’t meant to startle her.”

Mr Walters said Finnegan confessed to having sexual feelings for the girl and said he wanted to tell his Bishop, but she urged him not to.

He said Finnegan then apologised to her and talked about buying her a birthday present.

Mr Walters said the girl then told her mother what had happened who contacted a church welfare organisation called Catholic Care, which began an investigation. The police became involved, he said.

He said: “It was inappropriate not just because he is a priest, but also because of the wide discrepancy in their ages.”

Mr Walters told the jury that Finnegan’s offer of a gift was effectively bribery.

He said: “He’s gone round to speak with her and discovering her disgust he has apologised and effectively offered her a birthday treat as a bribe.”

Mr Walters said when Finnegan was told he was under investigation, he said the girl had kissed him but he had pushed her away.

The trial continues.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.