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Priest jailed for 'horrific abuse' of two children

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A priest who sexually abused schoolboys at a Catholic seminary in the 1970s and 1980s in a "quite appalling way" has been given an 18-year sentence

A priest who sexually abused schoolboys at a Catholic seminary in the 1970s and 1980s in a "quite appalling way" has been given an 18-year sentence

A priest who sexually abused schoolboys at a Catholic seminary in the 1970s and 1980s in a "quite appalling way" has been given an 18-year sentence

A priest who sexually abused schoolboys at a Catholic seminary in the 1970s and 1980s in a "quite appalling way" has been given an 18-year sentence.

Father Michael Higginbottom targeted two children separately while they boarded at St Joseph's College, a school for students aged 12 to 18 in Upholland, Lancashire.

During a two-week trial at Burnley Crown Court, jurors heard that he "regularly, systematically and horrifically" abused the boys, with prosecutor David Temkin saying: "They were both threatened with violence and both were struck with a strap or a belt."

After being convicted of five counts of buggery and seven of indecent assault, Higginbottom (76) was sentenced to 18 years, half in prison and half on licence.

Judge Andrew Woolman, sentencing Higginbottom yesterday, 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."

Higginbottom was originally found guilty at Liverpool Crown Court in April 2017 of offences relating to the first complainant, but these convictions were quashed in November last year by the Court of Appeal.

It was ruled then that a retrial would be necessary as jurors had not been given full details of the complainant's conviction for fraud by false representation, which were not available at the time of the original trial.

The second victim came forward to say he had been abused by Higginbottom in the mid-1980s after he watched a television news item on the 2017 trial which he said had "brought back memories of what happened".

Judge Woolman told Higginbottom: "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."

He said both victims had been psychologically impacted by what happened, and are still feeling these emotions decades later.

Jason Pitter QC, a lawyer for Higginbottom, of West Farm Road, Newcastle Upon Tyne, pointed out that his client had spent years working with teenage boys before and since the offending. He said: "He is somebody who, apart from these few years of his long life, was in fact of positive, good character."

Belfast Telegraph