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Key charges against Operation Fernbridge suspects are reinstated

The CPS will reinstate charges against John Stingemore and Father Tony McSweeney

20 August 2014

The Crown Prosecution Service has decided to reinstate several charges against John Stingemore and Father Tony McSweeney relating to alleged serious sexual offences against children in the 1980s. 

Stingemore, 72, and McSweeney, 67, are charged with sexually abusing boys from the Grafton Close children’s home in Hounslow, West London, whilst Stingemore was working as a deputy there. Both men deny all charges.

The two men were first arrested in February 2013 and were charged with multiple offences including the possession of indecent photographs of children, indecent assault on a male person under 16, and buggery. The allegations relate to six victims who were all aged under 15 at the time.

In December 2013, witnesses and complainants were informed that the CPS had decided to drop three of the charges against Stingemore and McSweeney, including those relating to the most serious offences. 

Following lobbying by Labour MP Simon Danczuk, the CPS formally reinstated the charges against Stingemore and McSweeney on 15 August 2014, stating that it had wrongly assessed the evidence. 

The Metropolitan police also announced that it would be pursuing new charges against Stingemore, including a further count of buggery against a boy under 16 as well as a further count of indecent assault. 

Grafton Close children’s home is at the centre of Operation Fernbridge, an investigation launched by the Metropolitan police in February 2013 to examine evidence of a paedophile ring which operated out of the Elm Guest House in Barnes, South West London. 

The children’s home was an adolescent unit where residents were assessed before being placed into foster care or more permanent homes. It was run by Richmond Council from the early 1970s until its closure in 1992. 

As part of the general Operation Fernbridge investigation, police are investigating claims that children were taken from the home to the Elm Guest House for the purposes of sexual abuse in the 1980s and early 1990s. Detectives are also examining allegations that several establishment figures, including the late Liberal MP Cyril Smith, abused children from Grafton Close at the guest house.

Allegations of a cover-up by the local authority are also being examined by police. According to media reports, police in Richmond formally interviewed a witness in relation to sexual abuse at Grafton Close as early as 1983.

The trial date for Stingemore and McSweeney’s case was originally set for April 29 2014, but was postponed by the judge due to Stingemore’s ill-health. A new date of 2 February 2015 at Southwark Crown Court has now been fixed.

Experts in the Leigh Day abuse team are representing adults who were formerly in the care of Richmond social services. For a confidential discussion with a member of the abuse team, please call 020 7650 1232.

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