Appeal looming over 'abuse' at seminary by Wigan priest

Father Michael Higginbottom
Father Michael Higginbottom

An appeal is set to be heard later this month for a Catholic priest convicted of repeatedly abusing a teenage boy at a seminary near Wigan.

Law lords will rule upon the case of Father Michael Higginbottom, who worked at St Joseph’s College at Up Holland in the late 70s, after a hearing on July 24.

The 74-year-old, who last lived at West Farm Road in Newcastle, is currently serving a 17-year jail sentence.

Appeal court judges will be asked to consider the verdicts on eight sexual offences, said to involve Higginbottom, between September 1978 and March 1979.

The priest was convicted of abusing his alleged victim while he was a physics teacher at St Joseph’s which trained young boys wanting to become priests.

Earlier this year the Court of Appeal gave the minister leave to appeal after considering submissions from his legal team.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, sitting with Mr Justice Teare and Mr Justice Kerr, ruled that a previous fraud charge relating to the alleged victim, should have been admitted into evidence during the trial.

The former St Joseph’s schoolboy, at the centre of the case, said he was struck with a strap if he did not attend Higginbottom’s living quarters at the seminary, where most of the abuse was said to have happened.

He told jurors at the trial: “I cried so often I believe I could have drowned in my own tears.”

The boy claimed his schoolwork suffered, as a result of him being repeatedly molested.

But Higginbottom alleged his accuser was motivated by possible compensation payouts.

Higginbottom, who became a parish priest after his time at St Joseph’s, was arrested years later and denied all the allegations.

Jailing him, Judge Andrew Menary characterised Higginbottom’s behaviour as “cruel and sadistic bullying”.

The Catholic Church came to a financial settlement of £35,000 with a second former student, who had also made abuse claims against the priest.

The alleged victim in Higginbottom’s case also alleged abuse by two other priests, who had since died.