A former parish priest of Kempsey diocese has been convicted of historic sex offences.
Father Dennis Byrnes, 72, was sentenced to six years' jail when he appeared in the Port Macquarie District Court on September 13.
He appeared before Judge Ellis and pleaded guilty to a range of charges including to aggravated sexual intercourse with a victim aged under 16 years and aggravated act of indecency on a victim aged under 16 years.
Two further counts of aggravated acts of indecency on a victim aged under 16 years were taken into account as part of the sentencing.
The historic sex offences started between August 1999 and 2000 and continued to occur between January 1 2000 and June 10 2001, June 10 2001, between August 5 2002 and August 5 2003; and, between August 5, 2003 and August 5, 2004.
The offences occurred at Leichhardt in Sydney, Kempsey and Armidale.
The victim reported the matters to the police who obtained a warrant to use two listening devices before the victim and Byrnes had a conversation. Byrnes apologised a number of times during that conversation, the facts said.
The offender was arrested on September 23, 2016.
During a recorded conversation with the police, Byrnes said: "I didn't abuse him, that wasn't my intention to abuse him. We had a very close relationship, I sort of looked after him and cared for him."
The six year jail term was to commence on May 31, 2019 and will expire on May 30, 2025.
Judge Ellis set a non-parole period of three years, six months and Byrnes will be first eligible for parole on November 30, 2022.
Born in Sydney, Dennis Byrnes studied at Springwood and Manly before becoming a priest at the age of 24 years. His first posting was to Lismore where he spent five years.
He spent 12 months at Ingham as assistant priest before a four year posting to Casino in 1978. He was then posted as assistant priest to Grafton until 1986 and spent the next three years in Wauchope.
In 1989 he spent 18 months as an assistant priest at Kempsey before being elevated to parish priest for the next 16 years.
He has been living in retirement in Port Macquarie since 2010.
St Agnes' Parish priest Father Paul Gooley says that, since that time, Father Byrnes has not been involved in any type of church ministry.
"We respect the victim's courage and their decision to come forward so that the appropriate action could be taken and proper support given," Father Gooley said.
"It is our hope that the victim is able to find healing and peace as a result of this process.
"The church has fully co-operated with civil authorities in relation to this matter.
"Given that the matter was the subject of a lengthy suppression order by the court to protect the victim in this case, it would be inappropriate to make any further comment."
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