Priest accused of sex abuse was a 'role model', court told

By Sam McKeith

A CATHOLIC priest from the NSW North Coast charged with child sex offences has been described in court as a "genuine renaissance man” and a "very good role model”.

John Patrick Casey, 70, is facing six charges in the NSW District Court related to the sexual abuse of children in the state's north in the mid-1980s.

After his arrest in 2015, Mr Casey, who was ordained as a priest in February 1974, was stood down from public duties as parish priest for the Mid-North Coast town of Sawtell in the Lismore Diocese.

On Wednesday, the jury trial heard evidence from a man who spent time as a 12-year-old with Mr Casey on a holiday to the Gold Coast in 1983 with two other boys.

The man, called as a character witness by Mr Casey's defence team, said he had "great memories” of the trip including swimming at the beach in Speedos while Mr Casey watched on.

He described Mr Casey as a "very good role model” and "genuine renaissance man” who was a talented artist and poet and skilled at bushcraft.

"Father Casey was polite and respectful, he was a friendly and engaging person,” the witness, a Sydney accountant, told the court.

Asked by Mr Casey's defence barrister whether the allegations of child abuse against Mr Casey fitted with the person that he knew, the man replied: "No, they do not”.

In cross-examination, the witness rejected a suggestion from Crown Prosecutor Michael Breeze that his evidence was biased due to his Catholic faith.

"There are plenty of Catholic priests I don't have fond thoughts about,” he said.

The man conceded that he only stayed with Mr Casey one time in the 1980s but said that after that visit the pair wrote to each other several times.

He said that he remembered boys coming over to Father Casey's house to watch television while he was there, but couldn't recall whether girls had also visited.

Beginning his evidence, Mr Casey told the court that before taking a post at Mallanganee in 1981, he worked as a priest at Casino, Lismore, Townsville, Coffs Harbour and Kempsey.

The trial continues before Judge Sarah Huggett. -NewsRegional

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