A PRIEST who spent nearly a decade working in Newport was sentenced to three years in prison for indecently assaulting a girl 40 years ago.

John Farmer, who is also known as Barry, worked at St Mary’s Church in Newport from the 1960s to 70s before moving to a Cardiff parish.

The 84-year-old, now of Cranleigh Road, Guildford, was also a governor of St Joseph’s RC High School in Duffryn.

Farmer was initially charged with 27 counts of indecent assault against one girl, who was between 12 and 14 when the abuse took place, but was found guilty of nine charges after a trial at Newport Crown Court.

The victim was abused as a schoolgirl and as one of Farmer’s parishioners between 1974 and 1976.

She said he referred to his lap as “the soft seat”, and then touched her inappropriately but Farmer denied ever doing so.

At Cardiff Crown Court today, the court heard about Mr Farmer’s ill health which Duncan Cooke, defending, said should be taken into account.

Mr Cooke also stated that his “previous good character” should be considered and that the “intrinsically aggressive” environment of a prison would cause his health to deteriorate .

“If one combines his health and current living arrangements and the affect of imprisonment on him those are factors that can be taken into account when delivering the appropriate sentence,” he said.

A doctor’s report also revealed that imprisonment was likely to “adversely affect his life expectancy.”

An investigation into the potential indecent assaults was started in 1993 by Bedfordshire and Gwent Police forces but was not completed at the time.

Recorder Richard Williams, summing up, described Farmer as a family priest and was “idolised” by the child who was “immature and blameless”.

“You were asked about these offences in the 1990s and you denied them. You could have been brought to justice then and you must bear culpability for the period of delay,” he said.

“The affects (on the victim) have been both lifelong and profound.”

Farmer will likely serve half of his sentence before being released on licence. He will be listed on the sex offenders register for 10 years.