Roman Catholic priest accused of sexually assaulting teenage girl has a secret wife after marrying abroad

Roman Catholic priest accused of sexually assaulting teenage girl has a secret wife after marrying abroad

By
Richard Hartley-parkinson

PUBLISHED:

09:52 GMT, 14 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

16:51 GMT, 14 March 2013

A Roman Catholic priest has revealed that he is actually married at a trial in which he is accused of sexually abusing a teenager.

Bradford Crown Court heard from lawyers acting for Father William Finnegan, 59, that he had confessed that he is married to a woman called Beverley Dawson.

His lawyer said that he fled to Cyprus in 1999 and married Miss Dawson, keeping the marriage secret from all but their closest friends and family.

He is currently facing charges that
he assaulted a 17-year-old girl at St Clare's RC Church in Fagley,
Bradford, where he was parish priest, last Easter.

William Finnegan revealed he is married despite being a priest

William Finnegan revealed he is married to Beverley Dawson despite being a priest

William Finnegan (left) revealed he is married to Beverley Dawson (right) despite being a priest

Finnegan's
barrister Jeremy Hill-Baker told the jury 'You may be thinking that he
is only human, that Father Bill, as a Catholic priest, has taken a vow
of celibacy, condemning himself to a single and lonely life filled with
perhaps an underlying sexual frustration because, let’s face it, it is
not a natural state for a human to be in.

'It
would be understandable for you to be thinking, “Well, perhaps it just
got the best of him with that 17-year-old”. Well, we are going to hear
evidence from Father Bill and we are going to be hearing evidence from
his wife, Beverley Dawson.

'No,
you didn’t miss-hear me. His wife. He and Beverley Dawson secretly
married abroad in September 1999. So deeply in love was he that he was
prepared to ignore the Catholic Church’s ban on marriage, a secret which
has been kept from almost everyone until now.

'Whatever the outcome of this case, his ministry as a Catholic priest is well and truly over.'

The court heard Finnegan met Mrs Dawson,
a mother-of-two, when he was a priest in Castleford and she was one of
his parishioners.

St Clare's RC Church in Fagley Bradford where Father William Finnegan is alleged to have inappropriately touched a 17-year-old girl

St Clare's RC Church in Fagley Bradford where Father William Finnegan is alleged to have inappropriately touched a 17-year-old girl

After her previous marriage broke down, they fell in love and travelled to Cyprus to wed in a civil ceremony and only disclosed their marriage to close friends and family.

Mr Hill-Baker said: 'Far from being celibate, they enjoyed a full and active sex life.'

Finnegan swore an oath on the Bible before beginning his evidence.

The Recorder of Bradford, Judge Roger Thomas QC, said: 'Your public announcement of this today is news to everyone'

Finnegan
said: 'It is, and I will be dealt with.' Judge Thomas asked him if he
had been suspended since the allegation of sexual assault arose.
Finnegan said: 'I have been suspended and simply ignored.'

He said his marriage would not be recognised by the Catholic Church because he was a priest.

Judge
Thomas said: 'Did you think it would compromise your position as a
priest, to carry out communion and so on and so forth, or wasn’t that an
issue' Finnegan said: 'It wasn’t an issue.'

Finnegan,
59, from Castleford, denies sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl on
Easter Sunday last year by touching her bottom and forcefully kissing
her. He told the jury it was the girl who had kissed him.

Finnegan's barrister told Bradford Crown Court that Finnegan went to Cyprus and got married in secret

Finnegan's barrister told Bradford Crown Court that Finnegan went to Cyprus and got married in secret

He said: 'She tiptoed towards me, placed her hands on my waist and kissed me on the lips.'

Finnegan said he pushed the girl away and Mr Hill-Baker asked if he had then said anything to her.

He said: 'I said that’s not to happen. I’m afraid I used quite a lot of force.'

Cross-examining him, prosecution barrister Richard Walters said: 'Rather than tell us the truth, you would rather brand that young girl as a liar.' Finnegan said: 'I have just taken the oath. I’m not lying.'

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

She said each week after he finished his church service on Sunday he would visit her, then go back to work on Tuesday. She said on the day in question, Finnegan had phoned her and told her he had been kissed by the teenage girl.

'He was shocked,' she said.

His marriage had been kept secret from both the Catholic Church and his parishioners.

The trial continues.