Prosecutors Block Child Sex Charges against Ex-Priest

Catholic News [Australia]
August 17, 2004

Victoria's Office of Public Prosecutions is refusing to press charges against former priest Gerald Ridsdale, despite nine more victims coming forward since his conviction on 46 charges.

The Age reports that the OPP told a police investigator that although it sympathised with the nine complainants, prosecuting Ridsdale further is "not in the public interest".

A four-year investigation by Detective Sergeant Kevin Carson of Ballarat CIU uncovered the allegations against Ridsdale, 70, who was sentenced in 1994 to a minimum of 15 years' jail.

Among the latest complainants is a western Victorian man, 35, whose account of abuse includes 12 instances of rape. He claims he was subjected to oral sex several times a week when he was a child in Edenhope.

A psychiatrist's report on the man, seen by The Age, notes there were few situations "which would exceed this in terms of the level of cruelty and degradation suffered by the victim".

A spokesman for the OPP said that even if Ridsdale was found guilty of the new allegations, he would be unlikely to receive an increased sentence.

The Court of Appeal in 1995 described Ridsdale's sentence as a "virtual life sentence . . . unusually long". At such a late stage of his life it was "harsh punishment and a severe burden". The court said he would not be eligible for parole until he was 75.

The OPP spokesman said: "Our view is he would not get a substantial increase to his sentence, if any. We are prosecuting all of these cases in the context of limited resources in the criminal justice system. The question becomes 'what's to be gained for the public?'

However, the western Victorian man's mother said that while the courts might view Ridsdale's sentence as severe, her son would always carry a burden. "This follows every one of the children (Ridsdale abused) into teenage and into adulthood. They still carry their scars."

It is also believed that further allegations not to be acted on have been levelled against two of Ridsdale's co-offenders, former Christian Brothers Robert Best and Edward Dowlan, both of whom taught primary classes at St Alipius school, Ballarat.


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