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Judge stunned by church’s legal aid to paedophile

A Victorian judge said evidence the Catholic Church continues to fund the legal defence of one of Australia’s worst paedophiles, Robert Charles Best, “just blows me away”.
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On Monday Best, 76, pleaded guilty in the County Court of Victoria to sexually abusing 20 young victims between 1968 and 1988 at schools in Ballarat, Box Hill, Geelong and Moonee Ponds.

County Court Judge Geoffrey Chettle admitted he was struggling to contain his emotion at the gravity and extent of Best’s abuse.

“It’s hard not to get angry, and I’m trying,” he said.

The Church admitted in 2013 to have spent more than $1 million on defending Best, whose victims number in the dozens. Some of the victimstook their own lives in the aftermath of Best’s abuse.

“I’ve got to say that just blows me away, on a plea,” County Court Judge Geoffrey Chettle said when told the Church continued to fund Best’s defence.

“It’s ongoing, regular abuse of children over 20 years, from a man who purports to be their pastoral carer”.

In 2011 the Christian Brother wasjailedfor abusing 11 other children under his care. The Church hasalready spentat least $1 million on defending Best.

With his guilty pleas to 24 charges Best now joins the likes of GeraldRidsdale​as among Australia’s worst paedophiles.

Best taught at several Catholic schools including Ballarat’s StAlipiusprimary school in 1971.

Ridsdale, the country’s most notorious paedophile priest, was the school’s chaplain, while convicted paedophiles Stephen Farrell, EdwardDowlan and Gerald Fitzgeraldfilledthe teaching ranks.

Most of Brother Best’s victims were schoolboys aged between eight and 11 who he abused while working as a teacherat St Alipius as well as St Leo’s College in Box Hill, St Bernard’s in Moonee Ponds and St Joseph’s College, Geelong.

Many of the assaults occurred in Best’s office, where he took victims for punishment, prosecutor Peter Rose QC told the court.

Othersoccurredin the school sick bay under the pretext of checking their wellbeing.

One young man was abused while singing during choir practice. Another when he was reading out loud in front of class.

Yet another had his hands bound with rope to a metal grate byRidsdalewhile Best assaulted him.

When his victims started to cry, Best whispered that it would “be OK” as he continued to assaultthem.

Several of those he abused braved the witness boxto tell of the harm he had done to their lives.

“As a seven or eight year old, the fear I had was enormous. I would go to school not knowing the next time I would be attacked

“The fear and anxiety was unbearable. He is truly a monster,” one of Best’s victims said.

Many of Best’s other victims have since killed themselves, several victims told the court.

Best will be sentenced on March 2.

The Age

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