Priest found guilty of historic sex offences at Richmond council-run children’s home

A Richmond priest was found guilty today of historic sex offences at a council-run children’s home.

Father Tony McSweeney was found guilty of indecent assault against a young boy which took place between 1970s and 1980s at Grafton Close children’s home, which is now closed.

Richmond Council has offered an apology for the ‘horrors’ of sexual assault and condemned the ‘unacceptable’ council management at the time.

Responding to today’s verdict, Gillian Norton, chief executive of Richmond Council, said: “The council is sorry that a child in its care was indecently assaulted.

“The assault happened 35 years ago and clearly the service leadership and management laid bare in court were totally unacceptable.”

Ms Norton was keen to emphasis that the situation today is ‘completely different’ with looked after children being placed in foster homes rather than group homes.

Today only children requiring specialist services are housed in children’s homes and all placements are subject to rigorous checks, including independent senior social workers.

She said: “The system today puts much greater emphasis on the views of children and staff are employed specifically to help children to give their views.

“Sadly experience has shown us of the horrors adults continue to inflict on children and it is difficult to say it can never happen here.

“But I am confident that services now are well led and managed, that officers are held to account by elected Members and the Local Children’s Safeguarding Board so that children in Richmond are as safe and well looked after as possible.”

Picture courtesy of Ray Forster, with thanks

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