Accused “did not know harm of child pornography”, children’s home abuse trial hears
A Catholic priest said he was “desperately ashamed” he did not tell anyone the manager of a Richmond Council-run children’s home tried to show him child pornography, a court heard.
Father Tony McSweeney, 68, is currently on trial accused of indecent assaults on young boys in the 1970s and 1980s and possessing indecent images of children.
Mr McSweeney was a friend of jointly charged John Stingemore, the manager of Grafton Close children’s home, who died last month before he could face trial.
It was alleged Mr McSweeney watched boys in the shower at the children’s home, sexually assaulted a second boy on a number of occasions and sexually assaulted a third boy at Mr Stingmore’s home in Bexhill.
Giving evidence at Southwark Crown Court this morning, Mr McSweeney told the court he was not aware Mr Stingmore had a house in Bexhill, did not visit the home at any point and consequently did not sexually abuse the boy in question.
Mr McSweeney said he did not recall a number of the alleged victims and witnesses and denied he ever sexually abused any young boys.
The priest told the court he visited Grafton Close on a number of occasions and children did used to sit on his lap in the lounge because it was “nothing unusual at the time”.
Mr McSweeney told the court that while he did not see anything of concern at Grafton Close, Mr Stingemore showed him child pornography, which he thought nothing of at the time.
He said: “John had gone away for two or three days and, unusually, I stayed there when he was not there. He came back and said he’d had a good time and set up a projector and put this film on that he obviously purchased and started to show it.”
Mr McSweeney added he did not think much of being shown the video at the time and said when he was arrested, the police asked why he had not reported it.
He told the court: “The answer is I don’t know. We didn’t know then what we know now. Child pornography seriously does damage people. Thirty-five to 40 years ago, we didn’t know that.
“It didn’t even ring any alarm bells. If it had happened last week I would have been straight on it.”
Your Local Guardian:
John Stingemore: Died last month
During cross examination, prosecutor Sarah Plaschkes QC said: “So there you were sat in the flat of a man in charge of a children’s home knowing he had a sexual interest in boys and you did not say anything and you did not do anything and you did not bring it to the attention of anybody in authority.”
Mr McSweeney responded: “I have thought about it since but I have no idea. I guess it really didn’t register. I think we know more about that sort of thing now than we did then. I don’t think I gave it much thought. I just blacked it out I guess. I am desperately ashamed of that.”
Mr McSweeney added he thought Mr Stingemore showed him the film because he knew he was homosexual and thought he might have also been interested in children.
Ms Plaschkes added: “If Mr Stingemore knew you also had a sexual interest in boys, he could show you that pornography and knew you wouldn’t tell anyone.
“You have a sexual interest in boys around the age of 14 to 16.”
Mr McSweeney responded: “No, I do not at all.”
The priest also denies being left alone with children in Mr Stingemore’s flat and ever taking a naked photograph of a child.