Lancashire

Upholland school priest denies historic sex abuse

St Joseph's College in Upholland Image copyright Doug Elliot
Image caption The alleged victims claim they were abused at the school in Upholland

A priest has denied sexually abusing schoolboys at a Catholic seminary where he taught.

Michael Higginbottom, 76, is accused of targeting pupils while he was a teacher in the 1970s and 1980s at St Joseph's College in Upholland, Lancashire.

Two complainants told Burnley Crown Court they were abused in his living quarters at the boarding school.

Giving evidence, Mr Higginbottom, from Newcastle, told jurors he had not sexually abused anyone.

The jury heard allegations made by a third former pupil had been investigated by police.

The matter did not reach the criminal courts but the claimant filed a civil claim against a number of organisations representing the Catholic Church, which made a £35,000 settlement with no admission of liability.

Jurors were told Mr Higginbottom was not consulted about the claim and only became aware of the proceedings because of newspaper reports.

Jason Pitter QC, defending, asked Mr Higginbottom: "Did you abuse any of those three?"

The defendant said: "No."

Mr Pitter said: "Did you abuse anyone?" to which Mr Higginbottom replied: "No."

The barrister said: "Over the years, how many pupils had you taught there?"

Mr Higginbottom said: "Over a thousand."

The college for boys aged between 11 and 18 has since closed.

Mr Higginbottom, of West Farm Road, had pleaded not guilty to five counts of serious sexual assault and seven counts of indecent assault.

The trial continues.

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