Rent Boy Faces Jail for ?3k Blackmail Plot over Gay Priest

By Chris Musson
Glasgow Daily Record
July 26, 2008

A GAY priest was forced to hand over ?3000 by a blackmailing rent boy.

Father Tony Sweeney, 61, quit the priesthood after details of the seedy plot emerged.

And yesterday, rent boy John Gallagher, who tormented the priest for almost three years, was facing jail after admitting blackmail.

Gallagher, 30, met Father Sweeney in 2003 at a meeting point for gay men in Glasgow's Kelvingrove Park, the city's sheriff court heard yesterday.

Father Sweeney, who had kept the fact he was a priest a secret, paid Gallagher to perform sex acts on two occasions and also handed over money because he "felt sorry" for him.

But in early 2005, when Gallagher found out who he really was, he began blackmailing him. Gallagher then pestered the priest for cash every time he visted the park.

Then last July, Gallagher followed the priest in a car to his parish, St Augustine's in Milton, Glasgow, and turned up at the chapel house the next day.

Over the next few months, he came knocking for cash at least once a week.

On September 2 last year, just hours before Sunday morning Mass, he arrived at 7.30am.

He threatened the priest and forced him to write a cheque for ?2220, his annual church salary, which was all the money he had. In total, Father Sweeney handed over around ?3000.

Gallagher also made his victim write a letter stating that he was gay and used male prostitutes. Police were tipped off by a mystery source about the blackmail plot later that month.

They visited the priest, who confessed all, and Gallagher was traced and arrested.

In court yesterday, the rent boy admitted menacing the priest, threatening to expose him as gay and demanding money from him.

Gallagher's home address was given as the Talbot Association on Paisley Road, Glasgow.

The Catholic Church in Scotland said Father Sweeney, a priest for 37 years, quit when the case came to light.

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Glasgow said: "We apologise to all those who will be shocked and hurt by these revelations."

Sheriff Norman Ritchie deferred sentence until next month for reports and Gallagher was released on bail.


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