The Northern Echo
14 April 2017
“CRUEL and sadistic” Catholic priest Michael Higginbottom was jailed for 17 years on Thursday.
Former Darlington parish priest Higginbottom repeatedly raped a boy almost 40 years ago and, following decades of silence, was finally brought to justice this week.
A judge told the 74-year-old he had made a young boy’s life a “living hell” for six months in the late 1970s, while he was a priest and teacher at St Joseph’s seminary in Upholland, West Lancashire.
At Liverpool Crown Court, Judge Andrew Menary, QC described Higginbottom as “someone who undoubtedly had a mean and cruel streak, saying: “The evidence makes plain that when you were teaching you employed methods that today – if not then – would be recognised for what they were cruel sadistic bullying.”
In a moving statement, the victim – now aged 52 – said he had been “haunted by demons” since the abuse.He said: “My abuse started within the first week of being left alone in that cold dark place.
“It was difficult to try to portray what that place was like. It was the polar opposite of the loving caring home I came from.
“I was subjected to physical, sexual and mental abuse at his hands.
“My sexual abuse happened so often I became numb with what was happening.
“I cried so often I believed I could drown 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.”
The victim, just 13 and 14 at the time of the abuse, said it had affected his entire life, saying he had kept his ordeal secret from his wife until eventually opening up to a psychiatrist.
He said he was bitter and angry and could not properly love his children saying: “A daddy that cannot love is only half a daddy.”
The man escaped the abuse when he was expelled from the seminary for stealing a watch.
Jailing Higginbottom – of West Farm Road, Newcastle – Judge Menary said: “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.
“Within about two weeks of his arrival you had targeted him for your own sexual gratification.
“As a matter of routine you took him or summoned him to your private quarters where you systematically committed sexual acts on him that would now be described as anal and oral rape.”
He said the victim and other pupils had described in graphic terms the “excessive and inappropriate corporal punishment you seemed to enjoy inflicting on the boys.”
Higginbottom was given a 17-year sentence after being found guilty on four counts of buggery and four of indecent assault, which took place between September 1978 and March 20, 1979.
He had also faced two allegations of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old boy at the seminary but at the beginning of the trial no evidence was offered and not guilty verdicts were recorded.
Higginbottom, who was suspended by the church in 2004 from his parish in Darlington, showed no emotion as he was sentenced and ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register for life.
Adam Birkby, mitigating, said Higginbottom did not remember the boy and denied the allegations.
He said the once-popular priest had contributed to his community and was of “exemplary good character” over the years since his offending.
The judge said it was a “huge and terrible personal tragedy” for Higginbottom that his legacy would “now only ever be that of a priest who abused a young boy.”
Catholic priest who raped a young boy until he prayed for death is jailed
Father Michael Higginbottom, 74, repeatedly raped his victim who told the court that the “evil” priest had ruined his life
Manchester Evening News
13:21, 13 APR 2017
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.
(Photo: Daily Mirror)
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.”
And it’s off to jail for Father Higginbottom. The ‘the victim is a money grubber’ defence didn’t work.
Higginbottom was suspended back in 2004. The suspension related to an out-of-court settlement with a complainant. The victim first went to the Diocese of Liverpool with his allegations, then turned to police who investigated but, for did not lay charges. It was after this that the victim sued.
I think there may be a number of very upset former parishioners who were apparently angered that, in what they viewed as a lack of proof of the allegations, Father Higginbottom was never reinstated as their parish priest.
Anyway, it looks as though justice has finally been done, and Father Higginbottom now has countless hours in which to get down on his knees and pray ‘without ceasing’ for his victims.