Priest 'systematically' abused boys at St Joseph's College, court told

St Joseph's College in Upholland Image copyright Doug Elliot
Image caption One complainant said St Joseph's was a "cold, dark and forbidding place"

A Catholic priest sexually abused two boys "regularly, systematically and horrifically", a jury was told.

Michael Higginbottom, 76, is accused of targeting pupils while he was a teacher in the 1970s and 1980s at St Joseph's College in Upholland, Lancashire.

Two complainants said they were abused in his living quarters at the boarding school, Burnley Crown Court heard.

Mr Higginbottom, from Newcastle, denies five counts of serious sexual assault and seven counts of indecent assault.

'Again and again'

Opening the case on Wednesday, prosecutor David Temkin said: "The boys were not there at the same time. They didn't know each other then. They don't know each other now.

"Despite that, their accounts - if true - demonstrate that they had very similar experiences, at around the same sort of age, in the defendant's private quarters.

"They were both abused by this defendant - regularly, systematically and horrifically.

"They were both threatened with violence and both were struck with a strap or a belt."

He said they had both come forward independently in recent years and "the defendant's past had finally caught up with him".

The court was told the first complainant attended the Catholic seminary 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 for him it was the venue for "mental, physical and sexual abuse".

Jurors were told Mr Higginbottom, of West Farm Road, Newcastle, forced himself "again and again" on the youngster and also forced the boy to perform a sexual act on him on regular occasions.

'Total lies'

Mr Temkin said the complainant did not reveal what had happened until 2013 when he told a friend who encouraged him to report it to police.

The second complainant attended St Joseph's in the mid-1980s and he too had wanted to become a priest.

In 2017, he told police that Mr Higginbottom had assaulted him on numerous occasions.

When interviewed, Mr Higginbottom said the allegations made by the first complainant were "total lies" and he had never been attracted to men or to boys.

He denied any form of sexual contact with the second complainant.

The trial continues.

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