Priest from Pease Pottage jailed for three years for child sex offences

Father Anthony McSweeney arrives at Southwark Crown Court, London, where he faces charges of sexual assault, gross indecency and taking indecent photographs of children following an investigation into abuse alleged to have taken place at Grafton Close Children's Home in Hounslow, west London, in the 1970s and 80s. SUS-150224-153352001
Father Anthony McSweeney arrives at Southwark Crown Court, London, where he faces charges of sexual assault, gross indecency and taking indecent photographs of children following an investigation into abuse alleged to have taken place at Grafton Close Children's Home in Hounslow, west London, in the 1970s and 80s. SUS-150224-153352001
  • Three year jail sentence for priest
  • Anthony McSweeney sentenced at crown court today
  • Priest ‘poses high risk of serious harm to children’
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A ‘voyeuristic’ Roman Catholic priest from Pease Pottage has been jailed for three years for sexually abusing a teenage boy at a children’s home.

Father Anthony McSweeney, 68, of Old Brighton Road, Pease Pottage, was also found guilty of making indecent images of children.

The court previously heard that McSweeney was close friends with John Stingemore, the manager of a care home in west London between 1979 and 1981.

Stingemore had also been charged with sex offences, but he was found dead in January aged 72.

McSweeney was found guilty in a trial at Southwark Crown Court last month and sentenced today (Friday March 27).

Judge Alistair McCreath recognised there was no evidence to suggest the priest had himself molested the child, but that he had encouraged it.

He said: “He has a voyeuristic interest in children, either in seeing them unclothed, or in seeing them sexually abused by others.”

The judge added that he had no doubt the children that had been observed by McSweeney had suffered sexual harm of a psychological nature.

“I would certainly assess that Father McSweeney poses a high risk of serious harm to children.”

Judge McCreath acknowledged that the priest’s work in the community - in prisons and hospitals - meant that he would have been aware of child protection procedures.

He added the priest had abused the position of trust that he was in, preying on the youngster at the care home where he should have been safe.

Judge McCreath said: “He was convicted on a joint enterprise basis and on clear evidence that the touching of the child was done with his approval and encouragement and for his sexual gratification, and it therefore makes no difference whatever, that he was not the one who in fact touched the child.”

The judge acknowledged that McSweeney had been a ‘good and conscientious priest in almost all aspects of his calling’ and had behaved towards his parishioners in a way that was ‘Christian, loving and kindly’.

Prosecutor Sarah Plaschkes QC, said: “This was a joint enterprise by both men, to use the victim for their own sexual gratification.

“There was grooming behaviour used against the victim - both men used the washing routine at the home as an excuse to confuse the child.”

“There was specific targeting of a particularly vulnerable child. He (the victim) was targeted because he was a vulnerable boy isolated from his family.”

Judge McCreath also imposed a sexual harm prevention order prohibiting McSweeney from spending unsupervised time with boys aged between 12 and 17, and ordering him to present his computer for inspection when required.

He confessed to watching a child porn film with Stingemore, but claimed he turned it off.

The priest was once enlisted by TV cook Delia Smith to hold a special football service at Norwich City.

And he officiated at the 1990 wedding of boxing star Frank Bruno and his now ex-wife Laura.

McSweeney, was found guilty of one indecent assault on a male and three counts of making indecent images of children.

He was cleared of three indecent assaults on two other boys at the care home and taking a pornographic photo of one of these boys.