More jail time means Gerald Ridsdale is 'likely to die in custody'

Australia’s most prolific paedophile priest, Gerald Ridsdale, is likely to die in prison after having his jail time increased again following another sentence for sexually abusing boys.

Ridsdale, due to turn 86 next week, was 25 years into a 33-year sentence and was eligible for parole in April 2022.

But his earliest release date is now April 8, 2025, after he was sentenced in the Melbourne County Court on Thursday for the abuse of another four boys in western Victoria in the 1970s.

Judge Gerard Mullaly set a maximum 10-year term with a non-parole period of four years for the 14 charges.

Taking into account Ridsdale's age and the likelihood of him dying in jail, three of those years are to be served cumulatively with the sentences he was already in jail for.

“At your age, my sentence may well mean that you are as a consequence more likely to die in custody,” Judge Mullaly said.

George Pell accompanies Gerald Ridsdale into court in Warrnambool in 1993.

George Pell accompanies Gerald Ridsdale into court in Warrnambool in 1993.CREDIT:GEOFF AMPT

It brings the total number of known Ridsdale victims to 69 and known sexual offences to 179 between the years 1961 and 1988.

“You knew what you were doing was profoundly wrong and harmful but you kept doing these things to these children over and over,” Judge Mullaly said.

The sentence of Ridsdale comes a week after the unredacted findings about Cardinal George Pell from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse were released.

The commission found Cardinal Pell, who shared a home with Ridsdale in the 1970s and provided character evidence for him in court in 1993, knew nearly 40 years ago that Ridsdale was moved out of another parish to protect the church from scandal.

Cardinal Pell was not involved in any of Ridsdale's offending.

The pattern of shuffling Ridsdale – under the leadership of Ballarat bishop Ronald Mulkearns – from parish to parish has since been proven to have only facilitated the abuse of new groups of children.

"In terms of the length of your offending it seems it only came to an end when you were moved on to a new parish which, as has been revealed, only facilitated you exploiting a new group of children," Judge Mullaly said.

Ridsdale, who uses a walking stick but is in otherwise good health, has been in prison since August 1994, a year after he was laicised by the church.

Ridsdale has been sentenced six different times from 1993 until Thursday when he pleaded guilty to the new charges – 14 counts of indecent assault and buggery – for the abuse he committed when he was a priest in Warrnambool, Inglewood and Edenhope from 1970 until 1979.

The four boys were aged between seven and sixteen years old and most of the boys were abused for years.

He used the guise of reading the Bible to one boy to fondle his penis, and corrupted the sanctity of confession for another, pretending he was hearing the boy’s confession – alone in a bedroom of the family home – only to abuse him.

One of his victims said the abuse affected every part of his life in his statement to the court.

“I am single, alone, broke, depressed, embarrassed, forgetful, unemployed, wondering how I can afford and how I will get through tomorrow. Things would be different had this individual not been a part of my life.”

The elderly parents of two brothers both abused by Ridsdale spoke of the guilt they endured years later when they learnt what their priest had done.

“They say that they trusted their beautiful children to you without question,” Judge Mullaly said.

“They still struggle daily with a feeling of guilt. They are not to blame, only you are.”


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