A Catholic priest has been found guilty of indecently assaulting a boy at a Richmond Council-run children’s home in the 1970s and 80s.

Father Tony McSweeney, 68, was convicted of one charge of indecent assault on a boy under 16, as well as three charges of possessing indecent images of children.

He was acquitted of three other charges of indecent assaults on boys under the age of 16 and one count of taking an indecent photograph of a child.

McSweeney was found guilty of indecently assaulting one boy who he watched in the shower at Grafton Close children’s home in Hanworth alongside John Stingemore, the former manager of the home.

Prosecutor Sarah Plaschkes previously told the court the victim said he remembered McSweeney because he was “massive” and “a right bulk”.

The court heard on a number of occasions when the boy was in the shower, Mr Stingemore and McSweeney came into the bathroom and watched him.

Ms Plaschkes told the court Mr Stingemore would touch the boy’s private parts “on the pretence of making sure he was clean”, but the prosecution said it was done for sexual gratification.

McSweeney looked on as Mr Stingemore touched the boy as a form of sexual gratification.

The jury was told the abuse did not start as soon as the boy arrived at the children’s home, but coincided with the arrival of McSweeney to the home.

Ms Plaschkes told the court the abuse on the boy was a “joint enterprise” of both of the men acting together.

It took the jury 16 hours and 34 minutes of deliberation to reach its verdict. 

McSweeney, wearing a hearing loop, showed no emotion as the verdicts were read out. 

McSweeney, of Old Brighton Road North, Pease Pottage, Crawley, will be sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on March 27.

Judge Alistair McCreath told McSweeney he will remain on bail until he is sentenced, but added this did not in any way suggest he will not be handed a prison sentence. 

A statement released by Richmond Council chief executive Gillian Norton after the verdict 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.

“The situation today is completely different. Most looked after children are in foster homes. Only those children needing very specialist services are placed in children's homes.

"All placements are subject to rigorous checks and controls within a statutory regulatory framework and this includes senior social workers who are independent of the child's worker.

“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.”

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."

Operation Fernbridge, a strand of the wider Operation Fairbank, 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. 

John Stingemore, who offered McSweeney a role at the home, was also charged with a number of offences in connection with the investigation, but died in january before he could stand trial.