Catholic priest found guilty of sexual abuse

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A Catholic priest was today convicted for the sexual abuse of a child more than 30 years ago under Operation Fernbridge.

Father Anthony McSweeney, 68, of Crawley, was found guilty at Southwark Crown Court of an offence committed during his time working at Grafton Close children’s home in Hanworth, south west London.

He will be sentenced on March 27.

He had been offered a role at Grafton Close by the home’s officer, and his close friend, John Stingemore.

Stingemore was also charged with a number of offences in connection with the investigation, and was due to stand trial alongside McSweeney, but died at his home in East Sussex in January.

McSweeney worked at the children’s home on an ad hoc basis as a ‘helper’, and although never formally employed by The Royal Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames, the role brought him into contact with the young boys who resided at the home.

The offence relates to over two years of abuse to one male victim, who was aged under 16 when it took place.

Following a ten day trial McSweeney was convicted of indecent assault of a boy under the age of 16 between January 1 1979 and July 31 1981.

He was also found guilty of making a quantity of indecent photographs/pseudo photographs of children on or before January 15 2013.

Operation Fernbridge was launched in 2012 to investigate allegations that child abuse had taken place at the Grafton Close Children’s home in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Acting Detective Chief Inspector Keith Braithwaite, from the Sexual Offences, Exploitation and Child Abuse Command, said: “McSweeney was an abuser who used his role in a position of trust.

“I would like to pay tribute to the courage of the victim in speaking out against McSweeney. It was that testimonial that secured the charges and enabled this case to be brought to court.

“I would also like to thank those witnesses who provided key evidence that ensured the court could hear what sort of man McSweeney really is.

“I am only sorry that McSweeney in denying his offences has forced the victim to relive the experience in court. I hope however that today’s result will give the victim some sense of closure.”

McSweeney was found not guilty on charges of indecent assault against two other boys under the age of 16 over the same period.

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