Judge Criticises Church, Gives Paedophile Priest Extra 4 Years

The Courier [Australia]
August 12, 2006

A County Court Judge has criticised the Catholic Church for failing to take action against paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale.

Yesterday, Ridsdale was convicted and sentenced to 13 years' jail, with a non-parole period of seven years, for sexually abusing 10 boys between 1970 and 1987.

The sentence, the second the former priest has received for child sex crimes, extends his earliest release date by four years to 2013.

Judge Bill White, in sentencing Ridsdale, described the 72-year-old's conduct as "appalling" and said he had plummeted "to the depths of evil hypocrisy".

But Judge White criticised the Catholic Church for allowing Ridsdale to continue to prey on boys as young as six years old.

"The Catholic Church cannot escape criticism, in view of its lack of action on complaints being made as to your conduct, the constant moving of you from parish to parish, providing more opportunity for your predatory conduct,

and its failure to show adequate compassion for a number of your victims."

Ridsdale, who admitted to 24 counts of indecent assault on a male person under 16, four of buggery and seven of gross indecency, was removed from the priesthood in 1992.

In 1994 he was sentenced to 18 years' jail with 15 years non-parole after pleading guilty to 46 charges involving 21 children.

Twenty boys and one girl, all aged between nine and 15, were sexually abused between 1961 and 1982.

He committed many of his crimes against altar boys in Ballarat East, Warrnambool, Apollo Bay, Inglewood, Edenhope, Mortlake and Horsham.

Judge White said "there were occasions following the celebration of mass, first holy communion, confirmation, weddings and funerals, when before and afterwards (Ridsdale) would sexually abuse (his) victims".

Judge White also said Ridsdale, who has been diagnosed with a significant psycho-sexual dysfunction, was responsible for a lack of trust in the church and its clergy.

"There are priests to this day who will not even pat a child on the head in case their actions are misinterpreted," he said.

The County Court in Ballarat heard Ridsdale, who sought treatment seven years before being dealt with in court, had displayed in prison "an intellectual appreciation of the harm (he) caused," more so than remorse.

Judge White said, in determining Ridsdale's sentence, the principle of deterrence had been of substantial relevance, and that it was not practical or possible to make all sentences cumulative.

He said he allowed for concurrency because of Ridsdale's 1994 sentence, which had been described as unusually high and unusually long.

Judge White said he also took into account the effect the defendant had on his victims, and the potential for any further jail time imposed being "a virtual life sentence".

The Courier was unable to contact Ballarat Bishop Peter Connors for a response to Judge White's criticisms of the Catholic Church.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.