Former Norwich priest breaks down in court during sex abuse trial

PUBLISHED: 09:26 24 February 2015 | UPDATED: 09:26 24 February 2015

Roman Catholic priest Father Anthony McSweeney. Photo: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire

Roman Catholic priest Father Anthony McSweeney. Photo: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire

A Catholic priest from Norwich broke down in tears yesterday at his sex abuse trial as he recalled his pornography collection.

Father Anthony McSweeney, 68, denied molesting three teenage boys at Grafton Close children’s home in Hounslow, west London, between 1979 and 1981.

But he admitted being shown a child sex porn film by his close friend, the care home manager John Stingemore, 72 - who was found dead weeks before the beginning of his trial.

McSweeney did not tell the authorities as it “did not occur” to him.

He also confessed to going to Amsterdam’s notorious red light district with Stingemore, where he bought gay porn.

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.

The priest became emotional as he told how his secret pornographic collection was discovered by his cleaner at his parish, St Peter’s in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex in 1998. She alerted church authorities.

McSweeney was threatened with being “banished” from the priesthood, but after around six months was moved to another parish in Norwich.

The former scout leader regularly visited Grafton Close children’s home, run by his close friend Stingemore, but denied abusing teenagers there.

He admitted being shown a child porn clip by Stingemore but said no “alarm bells” rang and he did not alert the authorities.

McSweeney also referred to the controversial Paedophile Information Exchange, which campaigned to legalise sex with children.

He said “Last year there was a great conversation about an organisation which was pushing for intergenerational sex and was getting official money to lobby politicians from the National Council of Civil Liberties.

“There was a whole lot of misunderstanding. It just didn’t occur to me to do anything.”

Stephen Spence, defending, asked: “Did it concern you that a man who ran a children’s home might have a sexual interest in children?”

He replied: “Then, no. It didn’t occur to me, I can’t answer why. I suppose I was a bit surprised, a bit shocked and I just got rid of it.”

He added: “I just blanked it out I guess. I didn’t give it any more thought. I’m desperately ashamed.

“I wasn’t shocked, I just said ‘John stop this’. I turned off the projector and we never spoke of it again.

“He knew I was homosexual after our trip to Holland and he may have thought I was interested in small children.

“He couldn’t know if I was interested in boys because it was never discussed but he might have surmised that.”

McSweeney, of Old Brighton Road, Pease Pottage, West Sussex, denies four counts of indecent assault on three boys under 16 between January 1979 and July 1981, and one charge of taking indecent photographs of one of the alleged victims during the same period.

He also denies three counts of making indecent photograph or pseudo-photographs between January 18 2012 and February 6 2013.

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