A WEST Yorkshire priest who revealed in court that he has been secretly married for more than a decade was today warned he may go to jail for sexually assaulting a teenage girl.
William Finnegan, 59, known to his parishioners as Father Bill, denied forcefully kissing the 17-year-old and touching her bottom, but was found guilty by jurors at Bradford Crown Court.
During his trial, Finnegan, who was parish priest at St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Fagley, Bradford at the time of the assault - revealed to the court and to his diocese that he shirked his vow of celibacy by secretly marrying Beverley Dawson in 1999.
He wed the previously married mother of two in Cyprus after meeting her at his former parish in Castleford, West Yorkshire, jurors heard.
The revelation of his relationship came after Ms Dawson was called by the court to give evidence.
She said she and her husband had never permanently lived together but saw each other regularly, had a sexual relationship and went on holidays together. Each week after he finished church services on Sunday he would visit her, then go back to work on Tuesday, she said.
Finnegan, of Acacia Close, Castleford, who will now have to register as a sex offender, denied forcing himself upon the teenager last Easter.
After swearing an oath on the bible, he told the court she had kissed him and said he had been suspended and ignored by the Catholic Church following the incident.
It took the jury almost a day of deliberating before returning a verdict of guilty, prompting gasps and cries from Finnegan’s supporters in the public gallery, where the young victim was also sitting.
Recorder of Bradford Judge Roger Thomas QC told Finnegan “there’s a lot of thought to be given” about the sentence he will receive, which could include an immediate prison term.
Judge Thomas said: “This case, albeit sexual assault of the least type, does have to it factors of another type.
“What the ultimate sentence will be, I have an entirely open mind about but that ranges from immediate imprisonment to other arrangements of a community nature.”
Finnegan will be sentenced following reports on April 11.