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venerdì 14 aprile 2017
Paedophile priest who raped a young boy jailed
A Catholic priest has been jailed for 17 years after a catalogue of horrific sexual abuse against a young boy which left him praying for death.
Father Michael Higginbottom, 74, repeatedly raped his victim who told the court that the “evil” priest had ruined his life.
Higginbottom revelled in “cruel, sadistic bullying” at St Joseph’s College, a seminary for prospective priests, in Upholland, near Wigan.
He used a strap and cane on boys as punishment and said he could “make this as easy or as hard” as the victim wanted before carrying out sickening sexual abuse.
The priest and teacher told a Crown Court jury he did not even remember the boy, who is now in his 50s, and denied eight sexual offences in the 1970s.
Defence lawyers for Higginbottom, of West Farm Road, Newcastle, suggested the man made up the allegations to try and get financial compensation.
But he was found guilty of committing the offences, which Judge Andrew Menary, QC, said would now all be charged as rape, after a five-day trial in Liverpool.
The victim deliberately stole a watch to get himself expelled so the abuse would end.
In an emotional statement, he told the court: “I was subject to physical, sexual and mental abuse at his hands.
“My sexual abuse happened so often I became numb to what was happening.
“I cried so often I believed I could have drowned in my own tears. I used to pray to die.
“There are worse things than death – living with an evil man and being left alone at Upholland.”
He said his education, work and personal life all suffered, he fought anger issues, and struggled to show affection to his wife and children.
The man said he had always provided materially for his family, but added: “A daddy who cannot love is only half a daddy.”
Prosecutors said Higginbottom breached the trust placed in him “in a spectacular and horrific way”, days after the boy joined the college, aged 12 or 13.
David Temkin, prosecuting, said the victim recalled the site as “a cold, dark and forbidding place” and a venue for “mental, physical and sexual abuse”.
The man eventually told a friend who encouraged him to report Higginbottom in 2013, when he told police: “I call that man evil because that is exactly what he was.”
Higginbottom described the allegations as “total lies” and Adam Birkby, defending, suggested the victim made them up to try and get civil compensation.
He contacted solicitors after reading an article linking Higginbottom to a civil case involving another pupil who was awarded £35,000 in an out-of-court settlement for alleged abuse.
But the victim told the jury: “No compensation was on my mind – justice was on my mind. I wanted that man to feel as scared as I did at Upholland.”
Mr Birkby said the man made allegations against two other priests, who have since died, and the harm he suffered could not be blamed entirely on his client.
He said Higginbottom lived a “positive life” as a parish priest for 40 years and would struggle in jail as he had Type 2 diabetes, a heart condition and was on medication after a series of mini-strokes.
Judge Andrew Menary, QC, said Higginbottom had a “mean streak” and was responsible for “cruel, sadistic bullying”.
He said: “For a period of about six months in the late 1970s you made a young boy’s life a living hell.
“What you did to him there effectively destroyed the remainder of his childhood and did a good job of destroying any faith he ever had.
“Realistically, at least in his mind, who could he tell?
“He was in a Catholic seminary being abused by a Catholic priest, with parents who were devoted Catholics, who would scarcely believe such abuse was possible.”
Judge Menary ordered Higginbottom to sign on the Sex Offenders Register for life.
He said: “There can be no doubt your victim has been haunted by demons.
“What you did to him has defined his life and will continue to do so long after you have been punished today.
“Your legacy now will only ever be that of a priest who abused a young boy.”