Father Tony McSweeney, a Catholic priest who worked at a children’s home, has been given a three year jail sentence for child sex abuse.
McSweeney. 68, was sentenced after trial by jury at Southwark Crown Court for indecently assaulting a 15 year-old boy. The abuse took place at Grafton Close Children’s Home in Richmond, London between 1979 and 1981.
Grafton Close Children's Home was managed by a Mr John Stingemore, who died in January 2015 aged 72. Stingemore was due to stand trial alongside his close friend McSweeney and was accused of 11 counts of indecent assault.
During the trial, prosecuting barrister Sarah Plaschkes QC said that Stingemore, who introduced McSweeney to Grafton Close, would have been aware which of the boys at the children's home were particularly vulnerable and "gave McSweeney the opportunity" to seek out young boys who would remain silent after being abused.
Together with Stingemore, McSweeney forced a 15 year-old boy to expose himself in the shower at Grafton Close Children's Home and indecently assaulted him a number of times under the pretence of "making sure he was clean".
The abuse happened on a number of occasions to the same victim, described in Court as a "vulnerable and isolated boy". McSweeney and Stingemore would use the washing routine to confuse the boy and to hide what their true motives were.
Prior to working at Grafton Close Children's Home, Father Tony McSweeney worked in cub and scout groups. When arrested in February 2013 as part of Operation Fernbridge, McSweeney was working as a Catholic priest in Norwich. He also worked part-time as chaplain at Norwich City Football Club.
Years later in 1998 McSweeney's cleaner found a drawer full of sex toys and video tapes that contained vile images of child abuse. She approached the Catholic Church for help after finding them but her plea was ignored.
In passing sentence, Judge Alistair McCreath explained that there was "clear evidence" that the abuse of the 15 year-old boy at Grafton Close was done with McSweeney's "approval and encouragement" and was also "done for his sexual gratification."
Judge McCreath added there was a “serious abuse of trust” as the victim was living in a children’s home where he should have been looked after.
The case has now been concluded and McSweeney has been brought to justice in the criminal courts. The case can still be reviewed under civil law as the civil process is very different, requiring specialist knowledge and expertise, and any civil claims will be strengthened by McSweeney’s conviction and sentence.
Slater and Gordon’s specialist Abuse Lawyers are currently advising on the Grafton Close Children's Home case and are currently representing over 800 victims of sexual abuse in other cases including Cyril Smith, Rolf Harris and Jimmy Savile.
We understand the difficulties in speaking out that survivors of abuse face and any communication with us will be dealt with in the strictest of confidence.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of physical or sexual abuse and you would like expert legal advice free of charge, call our Abuse Lawyers on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and tell us when to call you.
Jessica Standley is a Personal Injury Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK specialising in physical and sexual abuse claims.
Slater and Gordon are a leading personal injury law firm with offices in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Sheffield, Milton Keynes, Bristol, Derby, Merseyside, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Halifax, Newcastle, Wakefield and meeting rooms in Bramhall, Cheshire and in Hull, Yorkshire.