IN COURT: Former priest John Patrick Casey.
IN COURT: Former priest John Patrick Casey. Leah White

Catholic priest said young boys were ‘the sons I never had’

A CATHOLIC priest who is on trial over 27 charges relating to historical child sex abuse has told Lismore District Court that three young boys who stayed at his Mallanganee home in the 1980s were like " the sons I never had".

A witness who was called to the stand this morning gave evidence on the character John Patrick Casey.

He told the court that he and a close childhood friend - the first victim's cousin - stayed with Casey during school holidays in 1986 when he was about 14.

He said it was the first time he had met Casey, and the two boys stayed at the Mallanganee presbytery for six or seven nights.

The crown prosecutor asked the witness whether the boys smoke or drank alcohol during the stay.

"[My friend] and I were experimenting with smoking," he said.

"[My friend] and I would have brought them with us.

"It wasn't frowned upon, so we could smoke in and around the house."

The witness said Casey offered them alcohol two or three times during the stay at dinner.

Judge English explained to the jury the evidence was relevant, because the defence said in his opening statement the "good character" of the accused would be used to show he wasn't guilty of the charges.

She said the crown was entitled to call evidence to rebut the defence's evidence, but the character testament could not be used to infer Casey committed the crimes.

The officer in charge of the investigation, a detective senior constable with Casino police was called back as a witness for video evidence.

The jury was shown footage of the funeral service for the first victim's cousin, where Casey addressed the congregation and spoke fondly of the boys (the witness, the first victim, and the first victim's cousin).

"We had great times," he said.

"I felt like a real father. They were like the sons I never had."

Casey said when the boys left, the house felt empty.

"I questioned the whole thing church has about celibacy," he said.

"Until I saw a child having a tantrum… then I said, 'thank you for celibacy, Jesus'.

"Thank you for giving me the experience of the lovely side of fatherhood."

The court was shown two police walk-through videos, filmed last year, of the Mallanganee property where the historical crimes are alleged to have occurred.

The first was of the inside of a home, which included footage of a shower with mosaic tiles and a green basin.

The second was taken largely outside and featured a round plunge-pool, a water tank with mosaic tiles, a large corrugated iron shed with shelves and a smaller semi-attached laundry.

At 11am, the court was closed.

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