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Fagley parish priest charged with sex assault on girl, 17
A Roman Catholic priest in Bradford has been charged with sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl.
The 59-year-old priest was arrested in April this year in connection with the allegation and was bailed for further police inquiries.
Finnegan has now been charged with sexual assault and has appeared before Bradford and Keighley Magistrates’ Court.
At that hearing he pleaded not guilty to the charge and elected to stand trial by jury.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Leeds, which covers Bradford, has consistently denied knowledge of the allegations against one of its priests, despite concerns raised by parishioners about the sudden disappearance of Father Finnegan from their church.
Yesterday, a Diocesan spokesman, when asked by the Telegraph & Argus about Father Finnegan’s appearance in court, replied: “It’s news to me. I have no idea. I have got no comment because nobody’s told me about it.”
Asked in May whether police were investigating a claim of sexual abuse by someone connected to the church, a West Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “Police are investigating a report of a sexual assault allegedly committed in April against a 17-year-old female.
“A 59-year-old Bradford man was arrested last month in connection with the inquiry and has been bailed pending further inquiries. Investigations remain ongoing.”
Yesterday a police spokesman confirmed: “Police have charged a man in connection with the offence. A 59-year-old Bradford man, who was arrested in April in connection with the inquiry, was bailed to appear before Bradford magistrates.”
Official court records show that William John Finnegan, 59, of Acacia Close, Castleford, has been charged that on April 8, 2012, at Bradford, he intentionally sexually touched a woman aged 16 or over without her consent, contrary to section three of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
Finnegan was granted bail by magistrates with conditions which include not entering St Clare’s Church or Presbytery grounds.
A worker at the church said in May that Father Finnegan was “out of station” and the Diocese was providing priests to stand in at services.
A churchgoer said at the time: “We have been told he will be missing for a while, but we haven’t been told why.
“We have got stand-in priests coming in to give services.
“It is a mystery but something strange seems to have happened. We have heard that he has been reported to the police and he is not allowed to carry out his duties while he is being investigated.”
There was no response to a series of questions the T&A then e-mailed to the Diocese about Father Finnegan’s absence, and the police investigation.
The Reverend Father William J Finnegan is still listed on the Diocese website as the parish priest for St Clare’s.