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Diocese apologises as priest is jailed for abuse

by Aaron James

Fr Michael Higginbottom, 74, was convicted of four counts of buggery and four counts of indecent assault, committed during his time at St Joseph's College in Upholland, Lancashire, in the 1970s.

The college, now shut, was for boys exploring becoming priests. Higginbottom's victim attended St Joseph's for six months when he was 13 and 14.

Liverpool Crown Court heard the victim also claimed two other priests at St Joseph's abused him, however both have now died.

The lawyer defending Higginbottom said since he'd committed the offences he'd led a "positive" life ministering as a parish priest.

The victim told the court on Higginbottom's sentencing: "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."

A spokesman for the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle, where Higginbottom was ordained in 1969, said: "The Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle expresses profound sorrow for the terrible crimes of child abuse committed by Father Michael Higginbottom and offers a heartfelt apology to the victim, who should have been afforded and expected utmost care from someone in such a position of trust.

"There can be no excuses. Our thoughts are with the victim and his family at this time."

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