Former Norfolk Catholic priest Father Anthony McSweeney jailed for child abuse

Father Anthony McSweeney. Picture: John Stillwell/PA Wire

Father Anthony McSweeney. Picture: John Stillwell/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Former Norfolk Catholic priest Anthony McSweeney has been sentenced to three years in jail for sexually abusing a vulnerable teenage boy at a children's home in west London between 1979 and 1981.

McSweeney, 68, abused the 15-year-old between 1979 and 1981 while working at Grafton Close Children's Home in west London.

The once part-time chaplain at Norwich City FC was leading the congregation at St George's Church in north Norwich when the claims against him emerged.

McSweeney abused the boy with his close friend John Stingemore, 72, who managed the care home and was found dead in January - weeks before his trial.

Sentencing him at London's Southwark Crown Court Judge Alistair McCreath recognised there were no evidence to suggest the priest had himself molested the child, but that he had encouraged it.

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

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

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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.

'The nature of this risk is that of sexual assault and exploitation via indecent images,' said Judge McCreath who also 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'.

Dressed in a black suit, white shirt, and red patterned tie with matching pocket square, morbidly obese McSweeney, showed no reaction as he was sentenced.

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.'

Ms Plaschkes continued: 'There was specific targeting of a particularly vulnerable child. Not all children at the home were abused. He (the victim) was targeted because he was a vulnerable boy isolated from his family.'