Former NSW priest sentenced to 29 years for child abuse

Samantha Brett and AAP

A former Catholic priest has been sentenced to 29 years in jail for sexually abusing children more than 30 years ago.

John Joseph Farrell's 12 victims were boys and girls that he attacked in his Moree church, at public pools and sometimes in their own homes.

Farrell was sentenced to 29 years in jail, with a minimum of 18. Photo: 7 News

The 62 year old often committed the crimes after gaining the trust of the victim's family. Many of the children were altar servers.

Farrell refused to meet the eyes of his many victims in court on Monday, as a judge outlined the horrific crimes he committed in the 1970s and 80s.

Pedophile NSW ex-priest awaits sentence

The former priest sexually assaulted nine boys and three girls, who were aged between nine and 18.

All of the victims were too afraid to tell anyone of their pain until almost thirty years later.

Mark Boughton survived abuse by Farrell and said it was necessary to speak out to get justice. Photo: 7 News

“It is a long time, especially when you’re hiding and you think people know but they don’t. It’s one of those thing where you’ve got to bring it out to get justice,” child abuse survivor Mark Boughton said.

Farrell faced sentencing on 79 charges, including 48 of indecent assault, 27 of sexual assault and four acts of indecency.

The court heard his conduct was “degrading and humiliating”.

Judge Peter Zahra said Farrell acted "in complete disregard to the potential physical and emotional harm to his victims".

The judge spent almost three hours laying out his reasoning before sentencing.

"The offender created situations where he was confident he would not be detected even where his sexual abuse was, at times, brazen in the extreme."

He said that although there was evidence senior members of the Catholic Church were told of Farrell's crimes many years before he was brought to justice, allegations levelled by complainants "appeared to be frustrated either by the failure of those within the church to pursue any investigation or by dissuading further complaint".

It was an emotional day in court for Farrell's victims. Photo: 7 News

"The offender was thereby protected from the authorities by those within the church who chose to move the offender rather than inform the authorities," Judge Zahra said.

It was an emotional moment in the courtroom as Farrell was taken to the cells, sentenced to at least 18 years in prison, as victims stood up and clapped.

One victim is suing the Catholic Church.

"They knew it, knew it was happening and didn't do anything about it. We put our trust in them," Mr Boughton said.

When a boy who was repeatedly molested admitted to his mother that Farrell had "touched" him, the mother promptly contacted a monsignor who asked Farrell to leave the parish.

But the priest went on to serve in a number of other parishes and was not suspended from public ministry until 1992.

The judge said Farrell, pictured, had created situations to abuse children where he was confident he would not be detected. Photo: 7 News

The court heard that although the complainant went on to contact the nation's most senior Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, in 2002 to ask why the church had not responded to his family's allegations, Farrell was not laicised until 2005.

Around the time of the initial disclosure, the victim's mother also sought advice from a nun who told her "the church had a large amount of money to fight such allegations".

Farrell will be behind bars until at least 2033.