Paedophile Victims Praised for Coming Forward after Priest Who Taught in Lancashire Jailed for 18 Years

By Paul Britton and Dominic Moffitt
Lancaster Live
August 1, 2019

(Image: Daily Mirror)

Two men who were sexually abused by a priest in Lancashire have received praise from The NSPCC.

The charity called their actions 'brave' after the two men, who were sexually abused as teenagers by a paedophile priest, gave evidence that led to his conviction - and an 18-year prison sentence.

One stood up in court twice to detail his suffering at the hands of Catholic priest Michael Higginbottom in separate trials.

The charity said their 'courageous actions' in reporting the abuse and recalling their experiences to a jury showed 'the passage of time is no protection for abusers'.

Higginbottom, 76, was found guilty of five counts of serious sexual assault and seven counts of indecent assault following a re-trial.

The boys were abused as they boarded at St Joseph's College, a Catholic seminary were he taught in Upholland, Lancashire, which has now closed, in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said he breached his position of trust 'in the most horrific way'.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) spoke to the Manchester Evening News after we reported the case.

A spokesperson said: "Higginbottom abused his position of responsibility to carry out an horrific campaign of sexual assaults against vulnerable children.

"The bravery of the victims who spoke out against Higginbottom and ensured he could be brought to justice must be praised, and their courageous actions prove that the passage of time is no protection for abusers.

"We encourage anybody who experienced sexual or physical abuse at the hands of an adult, no matter how long ago, to speak out and seek support."

Children can phone Childline 24 hours a day on 0800 1111.

Adults can contact the NSPCC Helpline 365 days a year on 0808 800 5000.

Judge Andrew Woolman, sentencing Higginbottom on Tuesday, told him: "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 that you specifically targeted these boys.

"These acts were accompanied, time after time, by threats or actual violence under the guise of a normal school punishment.

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

The first victim came forward to police in 2016 to report he had suffered mental, physical and sexual abuse by Higginbottom between 1978 and 1979.

The second victim saw a TV news report on the initial trial in 2017 and recognised the priest because he sexually abused him too in the mid-1980s, the CPS said.

The boys did not attend the college at the same time and do not know each other.

But the CPS said they gave evidence of having suffered similar experiences when they were around the same age in Higginbottom's private quarters.

But after the re-trial at Burnley Crown Court, he was found guilty of four counts of sexual assault and seven counts of indecent assault in relation to the first victim, and one count of sexual assault in relation to the second victim.

The CPS said Higginbottom had originally been convicted at Liverpool Crown Court in 2017 of the offences in relation to the first victim, but faced a re-trial after they were quashed on appeal.

The re-trial included an additional charge in relation to the second victim.








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