UK Priest Surprises Court with Secret Marriage

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email

LONDON (AP) — A lawyer for a Roman Catholic priest accused of sexually assaulting a teenage girl has surprised a jury in northern England with news that the 59-year-old cleric has been secretly married for more than a decade.

Local newspaper The Bradford Telegraph and Argus quoted lawyer Jeremy Hill-Baker as saying that jurors at Bradford Crown Court could be forgiven for thinking that Father William Finnegan's vow of celibacy had left him lonely, sad, and sexually frustrated.

But Hill-Baker said they'd hear evidence from Finnegan and his wife, Beverley Dawson, that the pair had been "deeply in love."

"No, you didn't mishear me. His wife," Hill-Baker said, explaining the couple wed secretly in 1999.

Jurors could return a verdict as soon as Friday. In Britain, sexual assault carries a maximum 10-year sentence.

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