Forfar man to face trial over child abuse claims

Brass Scales of Justice on a desk showing Depth-of-field books behind in the background

Brass Scales of Justice on a desk showing Depth-of-field books behind in the background

A man is to stand trial accused of a catalogue of child abuse - including allegedly forcing a boy to harvest whelks in the sea by holding his head under the water when he couldn’t swim.

John Higgins faces six charges of abuse directed at four children over the course of nearly 30 years at addresses in Angus, Dundee, Perthshire and Aberdeen.

It is alleged Higgins targeted his first victim from the age of just five months with physical abuse - including hitting him with a belt and stamping on his head.

A second victim is said to have been attacked from the age of six. She was allegedly grabbed by the throat, slapped, kicked on the head and body and hit with a belt.

The third victim is said to have been attacked from the age of two, with allegations of the child being hit with a hammer, kicked on the head and body and also struck with a belt.

A further charge alleges attacks in 2005 on a 10-year-old girl, who was allegedly seized by the throat and thrown on to a sofa.

Higgins’ first victim was also allegedly “wilfully ill-treated” by Higgins between June 1987 and June 1989 at Rossie Moors, Montrose and Nigg, Aberdeenshire.

It is alleged that the boy, then aged between nine and 11, was “exposed to danger, forced to harvest whelks and held by the head under the water while he was unable to swim or draw breath”.

Higgins is further accused of repeated violent attacks on his then wife between December 2, 1975, and November 9, 2004.

Those attacks are said to have occurred at homes in Dundee and Aberdeen and in caravans on land in Angus, Perthshire, Aberdeen and Dundee.

Prosecutors say Higgins is alleged to have pushed her, kicked and punched her, choked her, slapped her on the head, struck her head with keys and struck her head off the ground.

Higgins, 60, of Forfar, denies a total of six charges on indictment at Forfar Sheriff Court.

Solicitor advocate Kris Gilmartin, defending, said: “Come what may we will be ready for trial. There is a 129 page statement from one of the complainers.

“I think eight days is likely to be accurate in terms of the length of this trial.”

Sheriff Gregor Murray continued the case to a jury trial assize later this month.