Ex-Priest Pleads Guilty to Abuse

Daily Telegraph [Australia]
August 7, 2006,22049,20052141-5001028,00.html

A Former Ballarat Catholic priest has pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting 10 young boys.

Gerald Francis Ridsdale, already serving time in Ararat prison for sexual assault, today faced the County Court in Ballarat to answer 35 charges relating to incidents involving boys between 1970 and 1987.

The court was told the 72-year-old committed the offences following a wedding, a funeral, mass, during confessions, on fishing trips, and at his victims' homes.

Ridsdale, who is serving an 18-year jail term for similar offences, faces a maximum of another 15 years behind bars.

He stood with his head bowed while crown prosecutor Tim Doherty detailed his offences, which included 24 counts of indecent assault with a male under the age of 16, four counts of buggery, and seven counts of gross indecency.

Mr Doherty said Ridsdale preyed on boys as young as six, including altar boys and students, in Ballarat, Bacchus Marsh, Horsham, Edenhope, Mortlake and Warrnambool.

The court was told Ridsdale warned his victims not to share their "secret".

Mr Doherty said Ridsdale told one 11-year-old he would "let his parents down if he didn't do what he was told" and that "they wouldn't like it if he didn't become an altar boy".

The court heard it took until 2003 for all 10 victims to report their abuse to police.

Mr Doherty said most felt they would not be believed, "such was the high regard of priests at that time".

Defence lawyer Trevor Wraight said although Ridsdale was diagnosed with significant psycho-sexual dysfunction, he was contrite and remorseful.

Mr Wraight said his client, who marked 12 years in custody on Sunday, pleaded guilty because he was "not at all prepared to put any one of his victims through cross-examination or questioning about what they have put (in their complaints)".

The court was told Ridsdale had health problems including high blood pressure and a heart condition which would soon require surgery.

Judge Bill White remanded Ridsdale in custody and is expected to sentence him on Friday.


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