Former priest pleads guilty to 35 more charges

The Age, Australia/August 8, 2006

Gerald Francis Ridsdale, a convicted pedophile and former priest already serving a minimum of 15 years for other offences, yesterday pleaded guilty to 35 additional charges relating to boys under his care from 1972 to 1987.

The charges include 24 counts of indecent assault, seven of gross indecency and four of buggery, according to an Age report.

Prison guards flanked Ridsdale, 72, who sat with his head bowed and eyes closed for most of the hearing. He was jailed for a maximum 18 years in 1994 after pleading guilty to 46 charges involving 21 boys and girls between 1961 and 1982.

Yesterday, the court was told the incidents occurred in Ballarat, Bacchus Marsh, Horsham, Edenhope, Mortlake and Warrnambool while Ridsdale was a Catholic priest.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Paul Coghlan, QC, decided that the case should proceed after meeting victims in 2004, rescinding an earlier decision that it was not in the public's best interest to prosecute the matter.

Counsel for Ridsdale asked Judge Bill White not to impose a crushing sentence so he could perhaps see "some light at the end of the tunnel" for his eventual release.

Saying that protection of the community should be Judge White's principal sentencing concern, the prosecutor called for a significant amount of cumulation rather than concurrency with the charges he had already been jailed for.

Ridsdale will be sentenced on Friday.

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