Warrant for Buxton priest withdrawn in 2000

Paul Cullen.
Paul Cullen.

The arrest warrant for a former Buxton priest convicted of child sex offences last week was withdrawn more than a decade ago, after courts thought he would never be found.

Francis Cullen admitted 21 offences including indecent assault, indecency with a child and buggery on children in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire as young as six between 1957 and 1991 at Derby Crown Court last Monday. He will be sentenced on March 24.

The 85-year-old, who served at St Anne’s Catholic Church, on Terrace Road, from 1978 and 1987, was on the run for more than 20 years, after he skipped bail in 1991. A warrant was issued for his arrest but was withdrawn in 2000. Cullen, currently in HMP Nottingham, was extradited from Tenerife last year.

An HM Courts and Tribunals spokesperson said: “The courts, police and Crown Prosecution Service regularly review old cases and arrest warrants. If it is believed there is no prospect of an arrest being made a decision can be made to withdraw a warrant. This decision is made by a judge or magistrate based on the information before them. However the case can always be listed again and the warrant reissued if the circumstances change and there is a prospect of an arrest. In this particular case, the fact that the warrant was in place for nine years and was only withdrawn after the fourth time it was reviewed emphasises the seriousness of the case and that fact that the prospect of arrest was fully considered. The withdrawal of the warrant does not prevent the prosecution seeking to re-commence the case if further information comes to light.”