Europe Paedophile Gerald Ridsdale tells abuse inquiry church repeatedly moved him

Paedophile Gerald Ridsdale tells abuse inquiry church repeatedly moved him

 Ex-priest Gerald Ridsdale gives evidence from jail via videolink during the Ballarat hearings of the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse.
Ex-priest Gerald Ridsdale gives evidence from jail via videolink during the Ballarat hearings of the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse.

Convicted paedophile Gerald Ridsdale has described how he committed a string of sexual offences, including on a boy in the UK, after being repeatedly moved to different locations by the Catholic hierarchy.

Ridsdale, 81, was speaking via a video link from prison to the royal commission into institutional responses to child sex abuse, held in the Victorian city of Ballarat.

The former priest said that shortly after he was ordained in 1961, he fondled a young boy, which resulted in a complaint. He was told by local bishop James O’Collins that “if this thing happens again you’ll be off to the missions”. He said he was then sent to Mildura.

After offending further, he was sent to Swan Hill and then Warrnambool. He said he did not request these moves. “In those days there wasn’t a choice,” he said. “There was no consultation, it was ‘you go’ and you went.”

He said he did not discuss his widespread sexual offences with anyone and was not told the reasons for his new placements. Under questioning from Gail Furness, he frequently said he did not recall details of his time as a priest, nor could he recollect conversations with high-ranking Catholic officials.

Quoting testimony Ridsdale gave the Catholic insurance investigator in 1994, Furness said the priest was sent to Genoa in Italy and then on to Kent in the UK, where he spent time as a housemaster in a school.

Reading his own testimony, Ridsdale said one boy in Kent “was a bed-wetter and one night I discovered he had wet the bed. I took him to my room, put him into fresh pyjamas. I’m pretty sure I fondled his penis, he would perhaps be 10.”

Ridsdale said he was himself molested three times when he was at school, once by an older cousin and then by an uncle. When he joined the seminary in Werribee he was told that masturbation was a sin.

Asked by Furness whether he he’d ever had a relationship with an adult, Ridsdale said: “Not really, except for a three-year period in prison where I had a close relationship with a prisoner.”

He said the damage he had done shows that people who confess things to priests should be helped but in his time “everything in confession was to be kept secret, private”.

Ridsdale was convicted of child sex offences in 1994. In total, he has been found guilty of more than 140 offences against children as young as four in a variety of locations in Victoria. He will be eligible for parole in 2019.

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