Lancashire

Michael Higginbottom trial: Priest abuse claims 'made up'

Michael Higginbottom
Image caption Father Michael Higginbottom was a priest and teacher at the boarding school

A former Catholic boarding school pupil who accused a priest of "horrific" sexual abuse made up the claims to get compensation, a court has heard.

Father Michael Higginbottom, 74, is accused of subjecting a teenage boy to repeated sexual abuse in the 1970s.

The assaults are said to have taken place when he was a teacher at St Joseph's College in Lancashire.

The priest denies four counts of a serious sexual offence and indecent assault.

Image copyright Doug Elliot
Image caption Fr Higginbottom was a priest and teacher at the boarding school

Liverpool Crown Court heard previous allegations had been made against Mr Higginbottom by another pupil in 2007 and the Catholic Church had settled out of court for £35,000.

But Adam Birkby, defending, said although the priest had been charged, no evidence against him was offered in court and not guilty verdicts were entered.

In his closing speech, Mr Birkby said the complainant in the current case had read about the settlement and lied about being abused.

He said: "I say that he has fabricated these allegations of sexual abuse against Michael Higginbottom with the clear aim of achieving thousands of pounds of compensation."

'About justice'

The alleged victim, who said the abuse happened when he was aged 13 and 14, went to the police in 2014.

David Temkin, prosecuting, told the jury the complainant had said the case was not about compensation, but about justice.

In his evidence, Mr Higginbottom, of West Farm Road, Newcastle, told the court he had no memory of the alleged victim and had not sexually abused him.

The court has heard the school, which was based in the Upholland area and has now closed, was attended by boys aged 11 to 18, many of whom were considering a career in the priesthood.

The alleged victim, now in his 50s, told police it was the venue for "mental, physical and sexual abuse".

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