Jail for paedophile priest who repeatedly abused boy
A Catholic priest has been jailed for 17 years for repeatedly sexually abusing a teenage boy when he worked as a teacher in the 1970s.
Father Michael Higginbottom, 74, was working at St Joseph’s College, a boarding school in Upholland, Lancashire, when the sexual abuse took place.
Liverpool Crown Court heard that his victim attended the seminary, for boys who wanted to become priests, for six months when he was aged between 13 and 14.
In a victim statement read to the court, he said: “My sexual abuse happened so often I became numb to what was happening to me.
“I cried so often I believe I could have drowned in my own tears.”
The victim, now in his 50s, said he used to pray that he would die to escape the abuse.
He said: “There are worse things than death – living with an evil man and being left alone at Upholland.”
The trial heard he would be struck with a strap if he did not attend Higginbottom’s living quarters, where much of the abuse happened, at appointed times.
The first incident happened about a week after the victim arrived at the school.
He said he was invited into Higginbottom’s living quarters and the priest locked the door and ordered him to undress before sexually assaulting him.
When he returned home from the school he became rebellious and his schoolwork suffered, he said.
He added: “Upholland, and him, have stolen so much of my being. I had to salvage something out of this empty shell.”
The court heard the victim also made allegations against two other priests at the school, but both had since died.
Adam Birkby, defending, said that since the offences, Higginbottom had led a “positive” life as a parish priest.
He said he suffered a number of health problems including type-2 diabetes and a heart condition.
Sentencing, Judge Andrew Menary QC said: “For a period of six months in the late 1970s you made a young boy’s life a living hell.
“What you did to him there effectively destroyed the remainder of his childhood and did a good job of destroying any faith he ever had.”
Higginbottom, of West Farm Road, Newcastle, had denied four counts of buggery and four counts of indecent assault but was found guilty after a trial.
The court heard that during his time as a physics teacher at the school, which has since closed, he would give electric shocks to pupils as a punishment.
Judge Menary said: “You employed methods which today, if not then, would be recognised for what they were – cruel and sadistic bullying.”
The trial jury was told that allegations had been made against Higginbottom by another former pupil in 2007 and the Catholic Church had settled the claim out of court for #35,000.
Police had investigated the claims and, although Higginbottom was charged, no evidence against him was offered in court and not guilty verdicts were entered.
Higginbottom was told he would be subject to the notification requirement of the Sexual Offences Act for the rest of his life.
Catholic priest guilty of campaign of sexual assault against boy in the 1970s
A Catholic priest faces jail after he was found guilty of sexually abusing a young boy in the 1970s.
Father Michael Higginbottom, 74, told Liverpool Crown Court he did not remember the victim
He denied molesting the pupil at St Joseph’s College, a seminary for prospective priests, in Upholland, near Ormskirk.
Higginbottom, of West Farm Road, Newcastle, denied eight offences, including four of buggery and four of indecent assault.
Defence lawyers suggested the man made up the allegations to try and get financial compensation, during a five-day trial.
But a jury today found Higginbottom guilty of all counts by a majority of 10-2, following more than 10 hours of deliberation.
Prosecutors said Higginbottom targeted the boy in his care, breaching the trust placed in him “in a spectacular and horrific way”.
David Temkin, prosecuting, said the victim recalled the college as “a cold, dark and forbidding place” and a venue for “mental, physical and sexual abuse”.
The man said it began just days after he started boarding at the college, when he was aged 12 or 13.
He told the jury it only ended when he deliberately stole a watch, so that he would be expelled.
Mr Temkin said: “He ran to meet his parents so that they could take him home and he never went back.”
The man did not report Higginbottom until 2013, when he told a friend who encouraged him to contact police.
In a video recorded interview played to the jury, he told officers: “I call that man evil because that is exactly what he was.”
Higginbottom denied the allegations when arrested in April 2015, describing them as “total lies”.
He said he let boys use his room to make coffee or watch television, explaining it was common for teachers to let students in their rooms.
Mr Temkin said: “He strenuously denied all of the allegations and added that he had never been attracted to boys or men.”
The man contacted solicitors in 2014 after reading an article linking Higginbottom to a civil case involving another ex-pupil, who was awarded £35,000 in an out-of-court settlement for alleged abuse.
He maintained he was not interested in compensation and annoyed because the article said the man would rebuild his life with the money.
The victim said: “I don’t think he could put his life right with any sum of money.”
He added: “No compensation was on my mind – justice was on my mind.
“I wanted that man to feel as scared as I did at Upholland.”
Judge Andrew Menary, QC, said he would sentence Higginbottom on Thursday and remanded him in custody.