“Michael Higginbottom trial: Priest abuse claims ‘made up'” & related article

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BBC News

10 April 2017

A former Catholic boarding school pupil who accused a priest of “horrific” sexual abuse made up the claims to get compensation, a court has heard.

Father Michael Higginbottom, 74, is accused of subjecting a teenage boy to repeated sexual abuse in the 1970s.

The assaults are said to have taken place when he was a teacher at St Joseph’s College in Lancashire.

The priest denies four counts of a serious sexual offence and indecent assault.

Liverpool Crown Court heard previous allegations had been made against Mr Higginbottom by another pupil in 2007 and the Catholic Church had settled out of court for £35,000.

But Adam Birkby, defending, said although the priest had been charged, no evidence against him was offered in court and not guilty verdicts were entered.

In his closing speech, Mr Birkby said the complainant in the current case had read about the settlement and lied about being abused.

He said: “I say that he has fabricated these allegations of sexual abuse against Michael Higginbottom with the clear aim of achieving thousands of pounds of compensation.”

‘About justice’

The alleged victim, who said the abuse happened when he was aged 13 and 14, went to the police in 2014.

David Temkin, prosecuting, told the jury the complainant had said the case was not about compensation, but about justice.

In his evidence, Mr Higginbottom, of West Farm Road, Newcastle, told the court he had no memory of the alleged victim and had not sexually abused him.

The court has heard the school, which was based in the Upholland area and has now closed, was attended by boys aged 11 to 18, many of whom were considering a career in the priesthood.

The alleged victim, now in his 50s, told police it was the venue for “mental, physical and sexual abuse”.


Catholic priest denies campaign of sexual assault against boy in the 1970s

Father Michael Higginbottom doesn’t remember his accuser

Liverpool Echo

16:22, 7 APR 2017

Former priest Michael Higginbottom (Photo: Daily Mirror)

A Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing a young boy nearly 40 years ago has strenuously denied the allegations.

Father Michael Higginbottom told a jury that none of the allegations were true.

He also told Liverpool Crown Court that he did not even remember the alleged victim, who is now in his 50s.

The complainant has claimed that while he was a pupil at St Joseph’s College, a seminary for prospective priests, in Upholland, near Ormskirk, Higginbottom repeatedly seriously sexually assaulted him.

Fr Higginbottom, now aged 74, of West Farm Road, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, denies eight offences – four of buggery and four of indecent assault – alleged to have taken place between September 1978 and March 20, 1979.

David Temkin, prosecuting, has claimed that for the alleged victim, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, the college was the venue for ‘mental, physical and sexual abuse’.

The man claims it began just days after he started at the college when he was 12 or 13 and it ended when he deliberately stole a watch so that he would be expelled.

It is suggested by the priest’s legal team that he has made the allegations to obtain financial compensation, which he has denied.

Questioned by his barrister Adam Birkby, Higginbottom has told the jury of six men and six women, that he did not know the alleged victim and had not sexually abused him in any way.

He also disputed the man’s claims that he used a strap and cane on him as punishment.

He did agree he had used a Van de Graaff generator, used to demonstrate electrostatics, and gave pupils a mild electric shock but said it always made them laugh.

3 Responses to “Michael Higginbottom trial: Priest abuse claims ‘made up'” & related article

  1. Sylvia says:

    “I say that he has fabricated these allegations of sexual abuse against Michael Higginbottom with the clear aim of achieving thousands of pounds of compensation.”

    Well, well, well….

    Imagine that.

    Defence lawyers in the UK use exactly the same defense used by those in Canada: the complainants are money grubbers.

    I suppose there’s only so many places a defence lawyer can go in these situations: one is to label complainants as money grubbers. I think that’s the number one line of defence in the little black book?

    Whether such a little book does or does not exist I have no idea, but, for those who witness a few trials, in short order it becomes obvious that this is a routine attack used against the complainant to defend the accused. It matters not if the complainant has filed a lawsuit, or if the complainant has not yet but might file a lawsuit, or if the complainant has not and never will filed a lawsuit. Every complainant should be prepared for these attacks on his/her character. It’s a standard defence, ie. the complainant is nothing but a money grubber, ergo the allegations are lies, the complainant is a liar and he /she is out to line his/her pockets.

    For those who are suing or intend to sue, never forget that the legal community itself concurs that it is perfectly legal to sue. There is no law against suing. None. And, there is no shame in suing. None.

    • JoeB says:

      The reason many people sue is the belief that the church is money driven, and that is all they really care about. So we have to hit them where it hurts. I truly believe the number of lawsuits would be drastically reduced if the church would only take responsibility for their staff, and stop painting the victims as the bad guy, or worse enabling the abuse to continue by simply moving the priest to a new location.

      • Bob LeDrew says:

        And given the difficulty of criminal prosecutions even in recent and well-evidenced cases of sexual assault, civil proceedings are the only practical way of proceedings.

        I recently pointed to this Toronto Star story about general numbers in sexual assaults:

        Nearly half-a-million people reported they had been sexually assaulted in the time period studied; only 15,000 of those were reported to police; only 5,544 charges laid; 2,824 prosecuted, and 1,519 guilty verdicts.

        A bleak picture for anyone who is assaulted.

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