Ridsdale Faces Two-day Grilling at Inquiry

May 22, 2015

Australia's worst pedophile priest, Gerald Francis Ridsdale, will be grilled for at least two days at the child abuse royal commission next week.

A major focus of the commission's Ballarat hearing is who was responsible for moving Ridsdale from parish to parish, allowing him to continue to offend, and why.

It may end up being Ridsdale who gives the commission much of the information it needs in its investigation.

Ridsdale will give evidence via video-link from jail on Wednesday and Thursday, and into Friday if necessary.

The royal commission's investigation is far from over and yet senior counsel assisting, Gail Furness SC, has already indicated it has uncovered evidence that church figures knew of the abuse in the early 1960s.

The parents of a boy Ridsdale abused in his first year as a priest in 1961 complained to then Ballarat Bishop James O'Collins.

Ridsdale later told an Catholic Church Insurances investigator that Bishop O'Collins told him "if this thing happens again then you're off to the Missions" and sent him to Mildura.

Ms Furness said there was evidence that a later Ballarat Bishop, Ronald Mulkearns, knew in 1975 that Ridsdale had abused boys, but did not suspend his priestly faculties until 13 years later.

Lawyer Viv Waller says she anticipates more material will come to light during the commission's investigation about what the Diocese of Ballarat knew about Ridsdale and when they knew it.

"If he could have been stopped in the early 1960s, there would be hundreds of victims and families who could have been spared the trauma of sexual abuse," Ms Waller told AAP.

"You've got to think how much suicide and premature death could have been avoided if in fact Bishop O'Collins had taken Ridsdale out of circulation in the early 1960s."

Ridsdale has been convicted of abusing more than 50 children over three decades.

The commission's public hearing will resume in Ballarat on Monday and is expected to last at least another week.

A second hearing into Ballarat will be held in November or December.

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