THE head of Australia’s leading church-related sexual abuse support service has called for the Victorian parole board to reflect on the seriousness of former south-west priest Gerald Ridsdale’s crimes.
Ridsdale is eligible for release on parole in June this year after originally being sentenced in the Warrnambool County Court to a maximum 18 years’ imprisonment in 1994 when he pleaded guilty to 46 charges involving 21 boys and girls between 1961 and 1982.
He has since been sentenced in two additional hearings which added time to the original sentence.
Ridsdale, who will be 79 years old when he is eligible for parole, is considered to be one of Victoria’s most prolific child sex offenders.
Broken Rites president Chris McIsaac said the decision on whether Ridsdale was released on parole was up to the parole board.
“It’s really about what the judges decided and how the parole board sees that,” she said.
“He is eligible for parole in June but the wheels turn slowly and at the earliest I wouldn’t expect him to be released until September or October. It’s scary that the issue of sex abuse in the clergy has kept going this long. It may be another 10 years before we get to the bottom of the barrel.”
Mrs McIsaac said Broken Rites received telephone calls every week from new sex assault victims. “We had a call last week from a victim who was abused in 1996, which has never been reported,” she said.
“He was having a hard time as a kid and his parents sent him to the offender who helped troubled teens. You can’t think of anything much worse.”
Mrs McIsaac said one of the more difficult aspects of abuse was the lack of a proactive attitude by churches.
“The church has never gone to the altar boys who were around these men and said did you have any difficulties or problems,” she said.
“I would call on the parole board to reflect on the seriousness of these crimes committed by Ridsdale and other similar offenders, many of who should have been brought to justice long before they were,” she said.