A “voyeuristic” Catholic priest who sexually assaulted a teenage boy at a children’s home in west London has been jailed for just three years. Anthony McSweeney, 68, was accused, and now convicted, of assaulting 15 year old boys while working at Grafton Close Children’s Home in Hounslow.
It was found that he had assaulted the boys with the aid of his friend, John Stingemore, who even more sinisterly was the manager of the care home, he died before the trial could be concluded.
In what has to be the most egregious and almost laughable parts of his defence McSweeney stated he was “too fat to have fit a teenager on him”. McSweeney had been described as morbidly obese and felt this was part of a defence which would shield him from these charges. The fact that he attempted to use this as part of his defence shows a tremendous lack of self-awareness on his part, and what’s more that was not the only charge leveled against him. Fortunately the defence was not enough to secure him a not guilty verdict.
As well as the indecent assault charge, he was also found guilty of three counts of making indecent images of children. At his sentencing at Southwark Crown Court, Judge Alistair McCreath said, “He has a voyeuristic interest in children, either in seeing them unclothed, or in seeing them sexually abused by others.”
McSweeney showed no reaction.
The judge would go on to say that the priest had “abused his position of trust” and that there was “no doubt” the children who were observed by the priest had suffered sexual harm of a psychological nature.
Judge McCreath would close his statement by stating that McSweeney posed a “high risk of serious harm” to children, via sexual assault and exploitation through sexual images. The priest had also earlier in the trial confessed to jurors that he would watch the children in the showers and that he would also take video for the purpose of watching them with his friend Stingemore. The priest said he watched footage featuring boys even as young as 10 on a home cinema with his friend and accomplice John Stingemore, who died before the trial.
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.”
She would also add that McSweeney had specifically targeted a “particularly vulnerable child”. Ms Placshkes said, “Not all children at the home were abused. He (the victim) was targeted because he was a vulnerable boy isolated from his family.”
During the trial, to add further levels of grime to this trial, it emerged the Catholic Church nearly dropped him when his cleaner found sex toys, truncheons and indecent videos of teenage boys at St Peter’s Catholic Church in Essex in 1998. After six months he was moved to a new parish, St George’s, in Norwich, after he was threatened with being “banished” from the priesthood.
I sincerely hope that with this man in jail those who were abused can find at least a little closure that the guilty will be punished for his actions. Even if it is only for 3 years. A sentence some are already calling too short and yet this man will never re-join the priesthood, he will be cast out and hopefully whilst he is imprisoned he can find something of the man he used to be and not the monster he was to these boys.