AN ELDERLY Irish priest has admitted to sexually assaulting seven children, including alter boys, during his 38 years in British parishes.
Dublin-born Francis Paul Cullen, 85, had been on the run in Spain for more than 20 years before he was extradited to Britain last summer.
Last week he appeared at Derby Crown Court and pleaded guilty to 15 counts of indecent assault, five of indecency with a child and one of attempted buggery.
His victims were aged six to 16 when he abused them, with the offences taking place from 1957 to 1991.
Following the verdicts, Judge Jonathan Gosling adjourned Cullen’s sentencing until March 24, but said a “very substantial” custodial sentence was unavoidable.
Detective Constable Matt Goodwin from Derbyshire Police said the force was “very pleased” with the guilty pleas.
“This will save his victims from having to attend the court and provide evidence at a trial,” he said.
“I would very much like to thank the victims of this case for coming forward to the police.
"It is due to them coming forward that Cullen had pleaded guilty to the offences. Without their help and support, this man would still not have been brought to justice.”
DC Goodwin added that the Catholic Safeguarding Board helped police make the first major breakthrough that led them to Cullen in Tenerife in 2012.
It came 21 years after he skipped bail when he first appeared in court in 1991.
The Irishman was ordained as a priest in Birmingham in 1953 and worked at a number of parishes in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire before leaving the Church due to bad health in 1991.
Father Andrew Cole, spokesman for the Diocese of Nottingham, said the Church offers its sympathy to those affected by the “tragedy” and promised it would do whatever it could to support them.
“I also wish to thank Cullen’s victims for their bravery in coming forward after many years of silence; it is due to them that Cullen has pleaded guilty,” he added.
“Nothing can take away the horror of what happened to them, but I hope that this verdict will help them in some small way to find peace.”
Derbyshire Police urged any of Cullen’s victims who have not yet come forward to contact them.