Pedophile Gerald Ridsdale Gives Evidence from Jail at Abuse Royal Commission

By Tessa Akerman
The Australian
May 19, 2015

St Alipius' Boys Primary School in Ballarat. Picture: Darren Mcnamara Source: News Limited

A former student of Ballarat’s St Alipius Boys Primary School has told the Royal Commission it was a place of “true evil’’ where up to dozen of his Year 4 classmates went on to take their own lives after they were abused.

Giving evidence on the first day of hearings in the Victorian town, Philip Nagle said he was abused as a boy at the school and his home by St Alipius teacher Brother Stephen Francis Farrell.

He told the commission that he knew when an attack was coming because his teacher would remove his glasses.

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Mr Nagle said the abuse started when he was in grade five and had Brother Farrell as a teacher.

Later that year at a school camp, Mr Nagle first thought of taking his own life.

Mr Nagle brought charges against Brother Farrell in the 1990s. Farrell didn’t contest the charges and received a two-year suspended sentence.

“The whole thing was treated like a traffic offence,” Mr Nagle said.

He told the Commission that suspended sentences for child sex offenders should be overturned.

Mr Nagle showed the Commission a photo of his grade four class from St Alipius. Of the 33 boys pictured, he said he believed 12 had taken their own lives.

“St Alipius Boys Primary School was a place where there was true evil.”

At the end of Mr Nagle’s statement, a minute’s silence for the victims who took their own lives was held.

Ridsdale called as witness

Disgraced defrocked priest and sex offender Gerald Ridsdale will give evidence via video link from jail at the Royal Commission in Ballarat.

Ridsdale, one of Australia’s most notorious pedophiles, was convicted for abusing more than 50 children over three decades dating back from when he was ordained in 1961.

Gerald Ridsdale leaves the Melbourne Magistrates Court.

The frail 80-year-old has been in prison since 1994 and is expected to remain there until at least 2022.

Ridsdale portrayed himself as the “friendly priest”, luring his victims with inducements such as lollies and money to gain their trust.

Counsel assisting the commission Gail Furness SC said Ridsdale will be questioned about what shaped him early in his religious life, who he told about his offending, who spoke to him about complaints and what was done as a result of those complaints or disclosures.

She said Bishop Ronald Mulkearns did not think it was his job to tell police about Father Ridsdale, who abused more than 50 children as he was moved between nine Victorian parishes and church locations.

Ms Furness said it was not until June 1988 that Ridsdale was suspended for 12 months, 13 years after Bishop Mulkearns first knew he was sexually abusing boys he met during his work as a priest. Ridsdale is believed to have abused every boy aged between 10 and 16 at a school in the town of Mortlake, the commission has been told.

The inquiry heard Bishop Mulkearns told a Catholic Church Insurances investigator in 1993 there were complaints of inappropriate behaviour with young Mortlake boys “so he was taken out of there”.

“Bishop Mulkearns told the Catholic Church Insurances investigator that he did not take it as his position to report Ridsdale to police,” Ms Furness said.

Ms Furness said there is evidence that Bishop Mulkearns removed a psychiatrist’s letter from Ridsdale’s file and destroyed it. Bishop Mulkearns signed a memorandum saying he destroyed the letter from Dr R.E. Seal - dated in the early to mid 1960s - because he thought it was privileged, Ms Furness said.

“He recalled that the letter said that Dr Seal had seen Ridsdale and was confident that, with appropriate care, he could function as a priest in the future,” Ms Furness said.

Ms Furness said despite the fact that Ridsdale continued to offend while receiving counselling, no alternative treatment was sought outside the confines of the Catholic Church.

Ms Furness said Ridsdale was a prolific offender while parish priest in Mortlake from January 1981. “There will be evidence that his behaviour around boys was no secret in Mortlake,” Ms Furness said.

The Commission is examining institutions run by the Catholic Church in and around Ballarat and the responses of the Church to allegations of child sexual abuse and to the convictions of a number of priests for child sexual offences.

As the Royal Commission began this morning, Commissioner Justice Peter McClellan said he appreciated that the evidence of perpetrators may be confronting for some people, in particular survivors of abuse.

“However without the evidence of perpetrators, the true story of the response of the Church in Ballarat may never be completely revealed,” he said.

A transcript from a private hearing with another Ballarat priest convicted of sex offences will be tendered.

Paul David Ryan’s evidence is that Bishop Ronald Mulkearns knew about his sexual behaviour with adolescents in 1977 but did not revoke his faculties until 1993.

The Diocese continued to financially support Ryan until about 1996. In 2006 Ryan pleaded guilty to three counts of indecent assault between 1990 and 1991 and was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment.

Justice McClellan said the evidence will not be directly concerned with the circumstances of the clergy’s offences but it will play a role in the Commission coming to understand why ordained members of the Catholic Church became abusers and how the Church responded to allegations of their abuse.

Ms Furness SC said the Royal Commission will also hear for the first time evidence from a psychiatrist on the consequences of child sexual abuse.

The current Bishop of Ballarat Paul Bird will give evidence about what he has done to address the impact of child sexual abuse in the Diocese.

The hearing in Ballarat is the Royal Commission’s 28th public hearing and Justice McClellan said the final report from the Commission will be provided to the government by the end of 2017.

So far the Commission has referred more than 600 matters to the police across Australia.








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