A Catholic priest has been sentenced to three years imprisonment for the sexual abuse of a child more than 30 years ago.
Father Anthony McSweeney, 68, of Old Brighton Road North in Pease Pottage, Crawley, was sentenced on Friday (March 27) after being found guilty on February 27 at Southwark Crown Court of an offence committed during his time working at Grafton Close children’s home in Hanworth.
He was sentenced under Operation Fernbridge, launched in 2012 to investigate allegations child abuse had taken place at the Grafton Close Children’s home in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Following a 10 day trial, McSweeney was convicted of an indecent assault of a boy under the age of 16 between January 1, 1979, and July 31, 1981, for which he will be jailed for two and a half years.
McSweeney was also convicted of three counts of indecent photographs/pseudo photographs of children on or before January 15, 2013, for which he was given six months in prison.
In the late 1970s, McSweeney was offered a role at Grafton Close by John Stingemore, who worked at the home as the officer in charge.
Also charged with a number of offences in connection with the investigation, and due to stand trial alongside McSweeney, he died at his home in East Sussex on January 14 this year.
McSweeney worked at the children’s home as a ‘helper’ and was never formally employed by The Royal Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames.
This role brought him into contact with the young boys who resided at the home and it is here the offence was committed.
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.”
The jury found him not guilty of three counts of indecent assault on another boy under the age of 16 years between January 1, 1979, and July 31, 1981, and not guilty of an indecent assault on a third boy under the age of 16 between the same time frame.