A former Catholic priest who worked in Alfreton has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for sexually abusing altar boys in Derby.
Francis Paul Cullen’s seven victims included four boys when he was the parish priest at Christ the King, in Mackworth, between 1957 and 1974.
Cullen, aged 85, had previously admitted 21 counts of child sex abuse.
Of these, 13 took place when he was in Mackworth and involved four former altar boys. His other victims were in Buxton and Nottingham.
He was ordained in 1953, and was a priest at the Church of Christ the King in Alfreton. He also worked in Buxton, Derby, Nottingham, Leicester and Scunthorpe.
Sentencing Cullen at Derby Crown Court on Monday, Judge Jonathan Gosling said: “You were able to continue getting away with your crimes for two reasons. First because of the position you held.
“In the years that you practised in the Catholic ministry, devout parishioners revered the priest and of course trusted him without question.
“Secondly, you were held personally in the highest esteem: formidable, charismatic, very intelligent and extremely popular. You were welcomed into parents’ homes.
“They could never have guessed that in truth you were a predatory paedophile. You were in reality cunning, devious, arrogant, despicable.
“You took full advantage of your position to satisfy your perverted lust. To say that you were a disgrace to your cloth understates your activity. This was gross hypocrisy. In a sentence, your entire life was a lie.”
Cullen, who retired in 1991, was first arrested in Nottingham that year – but he skipped bail and fled to Tenerife where he lived for more than two decades. He was was extradited back to the UK from Spain.
During the sentencing, statements were read out in court from some of Cullen’s victims.
After the sentencing, Father Andrew Cole, spokesman for the Diocese of Nottingham - which covers Derby - said: “The Diocese of Nottingham is pleased that Cullen has been given a custodial sentence which reflects the gravity of his offences and the scandal which they have caused.
“We realise that no sentence, however long, can fully make up for the lasting damage which his victims have suffered but we hope that his sentence will contribute towards their healing.
“We will continue to work with the police and other statutory authorities whenever allegations of abuse arise and will ensure that our churches and parishes are safe and welcoming for all members of the community.
“We are truly sorry for the wrong that has been done by Cullen to his victims and their families; their trust was betrayed and their dignity violated. We will do whatever we can to support Cullen’s victims and all who have been affected by this tragedy.
“The abuse of children is evil and cannot be tolerated.
“The Catholic Church takes the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults extremely seriously, and it is our hope and expectation that no child or vulnerable adult should ever suffer at the hands of others.”