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Former Australian priest convicted of child sex abuse pleads guilty to 72nd victim

An Australian ex-priest convicted of child sex abuse pleaded guilty Thursday to sexually abusing a 72nd victim.

Gerald Ridsdale, 89, has been in prison since 1994. He is serving a 39-year sentence 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 his home state of Victoria.

Bedridden, he pleaded guilty in the Ballarat Magistrates’ Court by video link from a prison hospital to a new charge of indecently assaulting a 13-year-old boy in 1987 while Ridsdale worked as an assistant priest at a school in Horsham, a town about 200 miles northwest of Melbourne.

Ridsdale will return to court Aug. 15 for sentencing on his 193rd conviction for child sex abuse.

His prison sentence has been extended seven times over the decades as more victims have come forward. In October, Ridsdale’s earliest release date was extended to April 2027 after he admitted abusing two brothers between 1981 and 1982.

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Australia Clergy Abuse

In this photo made from video on May 27, 2015, Gerald Ridsdale gives evidence during a child sex abuse royal commission. (Royal Commission/AAP Image via AP)

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Through his lawyer, Ridsdale told Magistrate Hugh Radford that he had been unable to walk since mid-2022 and his doctors have recommended palliative care. His medical conditions were not detailed.

Ridsdale accepted that the only appropriate sentence for his new conviction was additional prison time.

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.

The Pell and Ridsdale families had long been close in Victoria. Pell spent 13 months in prison before his own child abuse convictions were overturned on appeal in 2020. Pell died in January.

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