Priest jailed for 17 years for sexually abusing 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.

Thursday, 13th April 2017, 11:56 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 6:54 pm
Fr Michael Higginbottom

Father Michael Higginbottom, 74, was working at St Joseph’s College, a boarding school in Upholland 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: “I cried so often I believe I could have drowned in my own tears.”

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Liverpool Crown Court

The victim, now in his 50s, said he used to pray that he would die to escape the abuse.

Higginbottom, of West Farm Road, Newcastle, had denied eight sexual offences 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.”

Liverpool Crown Court

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.

An NSPCC spokesperson said: “This case shows that no matter how much time has passed, victims of abuse can have the confidence to come forward, knowing they will be listened to.

“Higginbottom used his position of trust to abuse a young boy and today’s sentence reflects the severity of this sickening crime.

“His victim should have felt safe in the school environment, but he was ruthlessly targeted by a man whose job it was to look after him.

“If you’re an adult with concerns about a child, you can contact the NSPCC helpline on 0808 8005000, children can contact Childline on 0800 1111.”