St Joseph's
Liverpool Crown Court heard that Michael Higginbottom abused boy at St Joseph's College, Upholland (pictured), which was a former Roman Catholic seminary Wikicommons

A Catholic priest who sexually abused a young boy in the 1970s to the extent that his victim prayed for death has been jailed for 17 years.

Father Michael Higginbottom was described by his victim as "evil" for the "cruel, sadistic bullying" at St Joseph's College in Upholland, near Wigan.

A statement by the victim, who is now in his 50s and cannot be named, was read out to Liverpool Crown Court after a five-day trial.

The victim said he was locked in Higginbottom's living quarters and ordered to undress before being sexually assaulted. He would be hit with a strap if he did not go to his quarters at set times.

"My sexual abuse happened so often I became numb to what was happening. I cried so often I believed I could have drowned in my own tears. I used to pray to die.

"There are worse things than death – living with an evil man and being left alone at Upholland," the statement said.

The victim stole a watch so he could get expelled and end the abuse.

The victim took legal action after he read about another pupil getting paid £35,000 in a settlement for alleged abuse in 2007, the Liverpool Echo reported.

Higginbottom's lawyers said the man had made up the allegations for the financial compensation. The priest denied ever sexually abusing anyone in his care and that he did not even remember the victim.

But in passing his sentence Judge Andrew Menary QC said Higginbottom, who has had to sign the sex offender's register for life, had made a young boy's life "a living hell".

St Joseph's College is now closed and used to have as its students boys aged between 11 and 18, many of whom were considering becoming priests.

"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," the judge said.