Lancashire

Upholland school priest jailed for sexual abuse of boys

Michael Higginbottom
Image caption Father Michael Higginbottom specifically targeted his victims when he was a priest at St Joseph's College

A priest who "systematically and horrifically" sexually abused schoolboys at a Catholic seminary in the 1970s and 1980s has been jailed.

Burnley Crown Court heard father Michael Higginbottom, 76, targeted two boarders separately at St Joseph's College, in Upholland, Lancashire.

Higginbottom, who denied all charges, was jailed for 18 years.

Judge Andrew Woolman said the abuse was accompanied by threats or violence "under the guise of school punishment".

'Shame and guilt'

In sentencing, the judge said: "You were in the highest position of trust in relation to these boys, who you abused in a quite appalling way.

"I have no doubt you specifically targeted these boys."

The abuse was "accompanied, time after time, by threats or actual violence under the guise of a normal school punishment", he said.

"The way you acted left them with a sense of shame and of guilt, as well as the sense no-one would believe them if they complained."

Image copyright Doug Elliot
Image caption Michael Higginbottom abused two boys at the now closed St Joseph's College in Upholland

Higginbottom, of West Farm Road, was originally found guilty of offences relating to the first complainant at Liverpool Crown Court in 2017, but the convictions were quashed in November by the Court of Appeal.

A retrial was ordered as jurors at the original trial had not been given full details of the complainant's conviction for fraud as they were unavailable at the time.

The first victim told police Higginbottom forced himself on him "again and again" in the late 1970s.

The second victim came forward to say he had been abused in the mid-1980s after learning about the original trial from a TV news report.

Jason Pitter QC, defending, said his client had spent years working with teenage boys before and since the offending.

He said "apart from these few years of his long life" Higginbottom was "of positive, good character".

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