Priest’s victim is praised after giving evidence

Fr Michael Higginbottom

Fr Michael Higginbottom

The victim who came forward to give evidence against a disgraced local priest has been praised for his bravery.

Following the guilty verdict of Father Michael Higginbottom, and his sentencing to 17 years in prison for sexual offences committed against a teenage boy in the 1970s, when the former priest taught at St Joseph’s College, the Crown Prosecution Service has sought to reassure other victims of similar assaults.

Claire Hilton, Senior Crown Prosecutor, Rape and Serious Sexual Offences Unit, said: “The victim in this case showed great courage in coming forward to report the offences committed and giving evidence at his trial. His courage has enabled the CPS to bring him to justice for his crimes.

“Higginbottom abused the significant position of trust he held as a teacher and guardian of the pupils in his care as well as a priest and representative of the Catholic Church.

“His actions have had a devastating impact on the victim from his school days and into his adult life.

“This case very clearly demonstrates that no matter how long ago sexual abuse was committed, time is not a barrier, and victims can see justice done even after several years have passed. The CPS will always take these cases very seriously and ensure that victims receive as much support as possible to help them give evidence at court.”

Liverpool Crown Court heard that his victim attended the seminary, for boys who wanted to become priests, when he was aged between 13 and 14.

In a victim statement read to the court, he said: “My sexual abuse happened so often I became numb to what was happening to me. I cried so often I believe I could have drowned in my own tears.”

Sentencing, Judge Andrew Menary QC said: “For a period of 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.”

Higginbottom, had denied four counts of gross indecency and four counts of indecent assault but was found guilty after a trial. The court heard that during his time as a physics teacher at the school, which has since closed, he would give electric shocks to pupils as a punishment.

Judge Menary said: “You employed methods which today, if not then, would be recognised for what they were - cruel and sadistic bullying.”