Priest guilty of sex abuse at Lancashire boarding school

30 July 2019, 06:29 | Updated: 30 July 2019, 06:31

burnley crown court

A priest has been convicted of sexually abusing schoolboys at a Catholic seminary in the 1970s and 1980s.

Father Michael Higginbottom, 76, had originally been convicted in 2017 of the indecent assault and buggery of one boy at St Joseph's College in Upholland, Lancashire, but faced a retrial after the convictions were quashed on appeal.

He was also accused of abusing a second student, at his retrial at Burnley Crown Court, and was charged with a total of five counts of buggery and seven counts of indecent assault.

A jury found him guilty of all charges on Monday, a spokesman for the court said.

Both complainants said they were abused by Higginbottom in his private living quarters at the boarding school for boys aged 12 to 18, the court heard.

The first complainant attended the college in the late 1970s because he had decided to become a priest.

He told police that St Joseph's was a "cold, dark and forbidding place" and it was the venue for "mental, physical and sexual abuse" as teacher Higginbottom forced himself on him "again and again".

Lawyers for Higginbottom suggested the complainant had made up the allegations so he could claim compensation.

Jurors were told he had been found guilty of a fraud in which he pocketed a four-figure sum.

The second complainant, who came forward after seeing a report of the first trial on TV news, claimed he was sexually abused by Higginbottom when he attended the school in the mid-1980s.

Higginbottom, of West Farm Road, Newcastle, denied the allegations and told the court he could not remember either complainant.