Priest told he will ‘probably die in custody’ as jail term for sex crimes extended to 40 years

A former Australian priest convicted of peodophilia had another 12 months added to his 39-year prison sentence for abusing his 72nd victim.

Gerald Ridsdale, 89, was sentenced to prison in 1994 for a series of convictions for abusing children between 1961 and 1988 while he worked as a Roman Catholic priest in churches and schools across Victoria.

On Tuesday, Ridsdale was sentenced to an additional year by the Ballarat Magistrates Court after he pleaded guilty in June to assaulting a 13-year-old boy while he worked at a Catholic school in Horsham in 1987. It was his 193rd conviction for child abuse.

Ridsdale appeared in court via a video link from a hospital prison bed. He kept his eyes closed throughout the hearing.

Magistrate Hugh Radford told Ridsdale he had been in a position of trust and should have been providing guidance to his victim.

The accused must serve at least 33 years and six months of his 40-year sentence before he is eligible for parole. His earliest release date is April 2028, when he will be in his 90s.

“You will probably die in custody,” the magistrate told Ridsdale.

The accused grabbed the survivor’s arm and called him a “big strong lad” before reportedly touching him inappropriately in the school’s counsellor’s office, according to 9 News.

The survivor, who is now in his 40s, ran out of the room after the assault took place and said he felt like “the world was 100 miles per hour”.

“It was like I was a passenger and had no control,” he said in a statement read to the court. “This led me down a path of destruction.”

Ridsdale was recommended palliative care after he suffered a fall in November 2022 which made him bed-ridden.

During his 29 years as a priest, Ridsdale was shuffled between 16 church posts. In 2017, a government inquiry into child sex abuse found his frequent relocations were evidence of the church covering up his crimes.

The inquiry found that the late Australian Cardinal George Pell, who became the third-highest ranking cleric in the Vatican in 2014, knew Ridsdale had been sexually abusing children years before his arrest. Pell denied any previous knowledge of criminal allegations against Ridsdale.

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