Catholic Priest found guilty of sex attacks on Wigan college boys decades ago

Wigan Today

July 29, 2019

A priest is facing jail after he was found guilty of vile historical sex offences against boys at the Catholic seminary near Wigan where he taught.

Fr Michael Higginbottom, 76, had originally been convicted in 2017 of the indecent assault and buggery of one boy at St Joseph’s College in Up Holland, but faced a retrial after the convictions were quashed on appeal.

He was also accused of abusing a second student, at his retrial at Burnley Crown Court, and was charged with a total of five counts of buggery and seven counts of indecent assault.

A jury found him guilty of all charges on Monday, a spokesman for the court said.

Both complainants said they were abused by Higginbottom in his private living quarters at the boarding school for boys aged 12 to 18, the court heard.

The first complainant attended the college in the late 1970s because he had decided to become a priest.

He told police that St Joseph’s was a “cold, dark and forbidding place” and it was the venue for “mental, physical and sexual abuse” as teacher Higginbottom forced himself on him “again and again”.

Lawyers for Higginbottom suggested the complainant had made up the allegations so he could claim compensation.

Jurors were told he had been found guilty of a fraud in which he pocketed a four-figure sum.

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