A New South Wales priest was jailed for sexually assaulting boys in his parish house

By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 29 July 2020

In a Sydney court on 30 October 2018, a Catholic priest in northern New South Wales (Father John Patrick Casey, 70) was sentenced to four years and ten months jail on charges of sexually assaulting two teenage boys who stayed with him at the priest's parish-house in the 1980s. The allegations against Father Casey included performing oral sex on one of the boys, masturbating in the boy’s presence, and digitally penetrating the other boy’s anus. Casey later appealed against his conviction but on 29 July 2020 the NSW Supreme Court dismissed the appeal.

A jury trial was held in Sydney's Downing Centre District Court during August 2018. Father Casey contested all the charges. However, the jury found him guilty of sexual assault (category three) of a person under the age of 16 years, sexual assault (category four), indecent act with a person under 16.

The incidents occurred when the boys stayed with Father Casey at his house in one of his earlier parishes, at Mallanganee (70 kilometres west of the city of Lismore) in the 1980s.

On 30 October 2018, Judge Sarah Huggett handed down her sentence in Sydney's Downing Centre District Court.

The investigation of John Patrick Casey was conducted by detectives from the NSW Police's Richmond Local Area Command, which has headquarters in Lismore. The detectives were dealing with information which had been received by Australia's national child-abuse Royal Commission.

Some background

John Patrick Casey is a priest of the Lismore diocese, which takes in the NSW north coast from the Queensland border to Camden Haven, south of Port Macquarie. The city of Lismore is where the diocese has its headquarters.

A church website says that Fr John Casey, of the Lismore diocese, was ordained on 2 February 1974. He has ministered in a number of parishes in that diocese.

He has also spent time away from this diocese. A website of the Townsville diocese in north Queensland says that in 1978 Fr John Casey (on loan from the Lismore diocese) was appointed for one year to the parish of Ingham in the Townsville diocese. He returned to the Lismore diocese at the end of 1979.

In the late 1980s, the annual edition of the Australian Catholic Directory listed Fr John Casey as the Parish Priest in charge of the parish of "Our Lady of Perpetual Succour" in Mallanganee (situated to the west of the city of Lismore). Some sculptures by Father John Patrick Casey were placed on display at this parish.

In the 1990s Fr John Patrick Casey was the parish priest at Camden Haven (Laurieton) in the south of the diocese. In the late 1990s, he had a senior role in the diocese, as one of the diocese's four Regional Vicars — he was the Regional Vicar for the diocese's south (the Macleay Region).

After being at Camden Haven (Laurieton) until 2004, Fr John Patrick Casey was appointed to his most recent parish the "Mary Help of Christians" parish at Sawtell, near Coffs Harbour.

As well as working in parishes, John Patrick Casey has also worked as a part-time police chaplain, with duties such as conducting funerals and other religious services for police officers.

According to local sources, Father John Patrick Casey is a nephew of Fr Anthony Casey who was the Parish Priest of Coffs Harbour for many years.

An unsuccessful appeal

After his conviction in 2018, Casey lodged an appeal in the NSW Supreme Court against the conviction. His appeal was on the grounds that there had been a miscarriage of justice, claiming that the judge had not properly explained that the jury could take into account reasonable doubt and also that the prosecution’s pursuit of him was an abuse of process.

On 29 July 2020 a panel of Supreme Court justices dismissed Casey's appeal.

After he completes his minimum jail sentence, Casey would become eligible for release on parole in May 2021.