|Born||Gerald Francis Ridsdale
20 May 1934
St Arnaud, Victoria, Australia
|Criminal status||In prison|
Gerald Francis Ridsdale (born 20 May 1934), an Australian laicised Catholic priest, was convicted between 1993 and 2013 of a large number of child sexual abuse and indecent assault charges against 54 children aged as young as four years. The offences occurred from the 1960s to the 1980s while Ridsdale worked as a school chaplain at St Alipius Boys' School in the Victorian regional city of Ballarat.
Career and allegations of offences
Ridsdale worked at St Alipius Boy's School in the early 1970s, where he was a chaplain. He also worked in Apollo Bay in 1972-73. At his 1994 trial it was claimed that he had been sent to a psychologist as early as 1971, though the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ballarat, Ronald Mulkearns, claimed that he had no idea of Ridsdale's actions until 1975, when the priest was in Inglewood. One parent claimed that Ridsdale had molested their son, but they were reluctant to let the boy be questioned by police and the priest had moved. A police officer involved with the case spoke to Mulkearns; the latter promised to handle Ridsdale, but moved him on instead. In 1976, Ridsdale was moved to Edenhope. Operation Arcadia, a three-month police investigation into what Mulkearns knew about Ridsdale, concluded that he knew about Ridsdale's crimes earlier than he admitted. Subsequent revelations in 2013 claimed that Ridsdale, aged 21, allegedly sexually abused boys as early as 1955.
Ridsdale was moved in 1980 to the National Pastoral Institute in Elsternwick, in Melbourne. In 1981 he was moved to Sydney. He was moved to Horsham in 1986; there, two people made complaints about him in 1988. In 1990, Ridsdale was sent to New Mexico. He was appointed chaplain at St. John of God hospital in Richmond on the northwestern outskirts of Sydney. While he was working there, a victim phoned Victoria Police, leading to Ridsdale's arrest three months later.
In May 1993, Ridsdale was charged on summons in the Melbourne Magistrates Court with thirty counts of indecent assault against nine boys aged between 12 and 16 between 1974 and 1980. Cardinal George Pell, a former Archbishop of Melbourne, testified before the 1993 hearing that Pell, while an assistant priest at St Alipius' Church with Ridsdale in the 1970s, shared a house together. Pell denied knowing about any of Ridsdale's ways. Ridsdale pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12 months' jail with a non-parole period of three months. A few weeks later, Ridsdale was first put on trial on charges of sexually abusing children. He was jailed in 1994 after pleading guilty to 46 charges of abusing 20 boys and one girl between 1961 and 1982. He was sentenced to 18 years' imprisonment with a minimum of 15 years, to be served cumulatively with the previous sentence.
In 2006, he pleaded guilty to 35 charges relating to indecent assault against 10 boys between 1970 and 1987. He was sentenced in 2006 to 13 years' imprisonment and with a minimum of seven years, three years of which was ordered to be served concurrently. A few of his victims criticised the sentence.
In 2013, Ridsdale was charged by Victoria Police with an additional 84 offences against 14 victims committed between 1961 and 1981, weeks before he was eligible for parole. He pleaded guilty to 29 counts (27 of indecent assault, one count of buggery and one count of carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of 16) committed between 1960 and 1980 and asked for a further 27 counts to be taken into consideration at sentencing. After pleading guilty to the above charges, including raping and abusing children as young as four, Ridsdale was sentenced to eight years in prison in April 2014 and will be eligible for parole in April 2019. The latest charges bring the tally of Ridsdale's confirmed victims to 54.
Ridsdale pleaded guilty to a further 20 offences against 10 boys and a girl on 13 April 2017. These offences were committed between 1961 and 1988 in western Victoria and are expected to extend his release date further into the future.
In 2008, fourteen of Ridsdale's victims formed a group to lobby the Department of Justice for an independent justice commission to investigate how victims were paid varying amounts of compensation by the Catholic Church. In 2012 the Parliament of Victoria established the Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and other Non-Government Organisations. The Inquiry tabled its response to Parliament on 13 November 2013 and the Government tabled its response to the Inquiry's recommendations on 8 May 2014.
In May 2015 the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse began an investigation into the response of relevant Catholic Church authorities to the impact of child sexual abuse on survivors of child sexual abuse, their families and the community of Ballarat. The hearing heard from residents, former students of St Joseph's Home, Ballarat, St Alipius Primary School, Ballarat East, St Alipius Parish, Ballarat East, St Patrick's College, Ballarat, and St Patrick's Christian Brothers Boys Primary School, Ballarat, and members of the Ballarat community about the impact of child sexual abuse on the community of Ballarat. Catholic clergy who were convicted of child sexual offences which took place within the geographical bounds of the Diocese of Ballarat also were invited to speak or make statements before the Royal Commission. Ridsdale gave evidence over two days by videolink from prison, detailing his memories of his abusing. David Ridsdale, a victim of child sexual abuse and the nephew of Ridsdale, gave evidence that he was sexually abused by his uncle between the ages of 11 and 15. The Royal Commission is ongoing.
- Congregation of Christian Brothers
- Roman Catholic Diocese of Ballarat
- Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
- St Patrick's College, Ballarat
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- J. Franklin, Gerald Ridsdale, pedophile priest, in his own words, Journal of the Australian Catholic Historical Society 36 (2105), 219-230.
- Donovan, Samantha (20 May 2015). "Royal Commission hears Cardinal Pell offered victim bribe to keep clerical sex abuse quiet". PM. ABC Local Radio. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
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