Priest’s victims traumatised by assaults

The Courier [Ballarat, Australia]

October 19, 2022

By Cassandra Morgan

A serial pedophile former priest will likely die in prison after his earliest release date was extended to 2027.

Gerald Francis Ridsdale, who has sexually assaulted dozens of child victims, was sentenced in the Victorian County Court on Wednesday for his repeated attacks on two brothers.

Between 1981 and 1982, the then-parish priest attacked one of the brothers at their family home near Mortlake, in western Victoria, urging the teenager not to be a “spoilt brat” and saying he wouldn’t be believed if he told anyone.

On another occasion, Ridsdale told the teenager words to the effect of “look what you made me do”.

The now 88-year-old went on to rape the boy’s brother several times, once while the victim was in a church confessional box.

Ridsdale also assaulted the boy when he stayed overnight at a presbytery.

Years on, both brothers said in victim impact statements that they turned to substances to deal with their trauma. Ridsdale refused to read their statements, the court heard.

One victim reflected he lives a solitary life knowing “my life has passed me by”.

Judge Claire Quin noted that because of Ridsdale’s authority in his community, he was able to “continue to offend without censure”.

As parish priest, he was “blindly accepted, trusted, and revered by parishioners and members of the community”, she said.

“A part of these people’s spiritual lives … (has) been shattered and destroyed.

“You abused the trust placed in you by families … and parishioners who welcomed you into their homes.”

Ridsdale has spent nearly 28 years in continuous custody and, prior to Wednesday’s sentencing, was due to be eligible for parole in April 2025.

He pleaded guilty to 13 offences, including four counts of indecent assault and nine counts of sexually penetrating a child under 16. He was sentenced to a total six-and-a-half years in prison.

Two years was cumulative on his existing sentence, extending his current non-parole period by two years to April 2027. His entire jail sentence expires in September, 2033.

Ridsdale’s offending largely took place in western Victoria where he spent most of his time as a priest after being ordained in 1961 – around the same time as he discovered his sexual interest in children.

He also served in NSW and in New Mexico in the United States, where he underwent church-connected sex offender treatment.

Australian Associated Press