London

Catholic priest Anthony McSweeney jailed for sex abuse

Anthony McSweeney Image copyright PA
Image caption Father Anthony McSweeney was found guilty of sexually abusing a teenage boy between 1979 and 1981

A "voyeuristic" Catholic priest who sexually assaulted a teenage boy at a children's home in west London has been jailed for three years.

Anthony McSweeney, 68, abused the 15-year-old while working at Grafton Close Children's Home in Hounslow.

He assaulted the boy with his friend John Stingemore, the manager of the care home, who died before the trial.

As part of his defence, he had said he was too fat to fit a teenager on him.

McSweeney, who has been described as morbidly obese, used the defence when he denied molesting boys between 1979 and 1981.

As well indecent assault, he was also found guilty of three counts of making indecent images of children.

'Voyeuristic interest'

The priest was investigated as part of a police probe into allegations of a paedophile ring at Grafton Close.

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 said the priest had abused his position of trust and there was no doubt the children observed by the priest had suffered sexual harm of a psychological nature.

Image copyright Met Police
Image caption McSweeney was not banished by the Catholic Church even though it had evidence of his activities

Judge McCreath added that McSweeney posed a "high risk of serious harm" to children, via sexual assault and exploitation through sexual images.

Earlier in the trial, the priest confessed to jurors he had watched children in the shower and collected indecent videos of children.

The priest said he watched footage featuring boys as young as 10 on a home cinema with his friend John Stingemore, who died before the trial.

'Vulnerable child'

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 said 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."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Care home manager John Stingemore was found dead at his home in January

Police said the priest worked at Grafton on an ad hoc basis as a "helper" and the council never formally employed him.

During the 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.

But 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, the court heard.

TV cook Delia Smith once asked McSweeney to hold a special football service at Norwich City and he also officiated at Frank Bruno and his now ex-wife Laura's wedding.