Robert Charles Best

Posted: October 15, 2012 by Serendipity in Location, Photo, Sentenced, Victoria
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Photo: Ballarat Courier

Court dismisses appeal on sex assault convictions

ABC November 21, 2012, 11:25 am

A Christian brother who was jailed over the sexual assault of boys at Catholic schools in Victoria has had his appeal against some of the convictions dismissed.

Brother Robert Best contested seven convictions relating to the sexual assault of one boy between 1971 and 1974.

His lawyers argued there were doubts about the reliability of the victim’s evidence.

They also said the prosecution’s failure to call a material witness had impacted on Best’s right to a fair trial.

But in a unanimous decision, three judges from the Court of Appeal dismissed the case.

They found the victim’s evidence was coherent and credible and said the failure to call the witness did not result in unfairness.

Best is serving a maximum 14 year jail term for abusing 11 boys.

Jailed paedophile appeals against convictions

By Danny Morgan

Updated 36 minutes ago

A Christian Brother who is in jail for sexually abusing school boys is appealing against some of his convictions.

Robert Charles Best was sentenced to 14 years in prison last year for abusing the boys when he worked as a teacher at Victorian Catholic schools in the 1970s and 1980s.

He is challenging convictions on seven counts of unlawfully and indecently assaulting a boy in Ballarat between 1971 and 1974.

A submission to the Court of Appeal by Best’s legal team says the appeal is partly based on the crown’s failure to call the mother of the boy during the trial.

Ballarat sex abuse victims welcome inquiry calls


30 Mar, 2012 12:28 AM

VICTIMS of paedophile Christian Brother Robert Charles Best have backed new calls for an independent inquiry into clergy sexual abuse in Ballarat and around Victoria.

As momentum gathers among clergy and victims’ advocates, a Melbourne lawyer preparing a class action against the Christian Brothers order said she had 45 people registered to take part.

The calls come a day after The Age reported that senior Melbourne Catholic clergy, including an adviser to Archbishop Denis Hart, have called for an independent inquiry into the handling of abuse complaints.

Father Tony Kerin said this week that he had told Archbishop Hart a review would clear the air after more than 300 compensation payouts and the conviction of 60 priests and members of religious orders.

Victim and campaigner Stephen Woods, who was abused as a student in the 1970s, said he would support an inquiry with broad terms of reference. “I have always found that talking about what happened in my past and what these monsters did to us has been cathartic and a wonderful thing,” he said.

“If a hearing or inquest ever happens, it will give the victims and their families a chance to express how they’ve been treated and felt for decades.”

Mr Woods said he was doubtful the Catholic Church would establish an inquiry after years of law suits and convictions.

Melbourne lawyer Dr Vivian Waller said many victims from Ballarat had taken their own lives and an inquiry was overdue.

“If you were a student at St Alipius in Ballarat in the 1970s and you weren’t a victim of sexual abuse, you should consider yourself a statistical anomaly,” she said.

“Ultimately it will be inescapable and the church will be called to account for the alarming number of sex offenders and the less than desirable response they have put in place.”

Dr Waller said the state’s coroner should look at a string of more than 30 suicides of former students from the school.

In February, Justice Phillip Cummins recommended the Victorian Parliament establish a formal investigation into decades of abuse.

Child sex abuse class auction launched

Updated September 22, 2011 11:41:49

Thirty-five Victorian men have joined a child sex abuse class action against the Christian Brothers order.

Lawyer Vivian Waller is representing the men who say they were abused while they were students at schools run by the order.

Christian Brother Robert Best is appealing against a 14-year jail sentence for offences between the 1960s and 1980s in schools around Victoria, including Ballarat.

Ms Waller says more men are coming forward.

“I act for the men in relation to Brother Best [who] has recently been convicted or entered a guilty plea and that was approximately 14 people,” she said.

“Since that time, the numbers have expanded to 35. So more people are coming forward all the time.”

She says other men have come forward who allege abuse that has not yet been heard in court.

“My office has been inundated with former students of St Alipius in Ballarat and St Patrick’s in Ballarat and other schools in Melbourne taught by the Christian Brothers,” she said.

Brother Best appeals court convictions


20 Sep, 2011 12:27 AM

Paedophile Christian Brother Robert Charles Best has lodged an appeal relating to his conviction for sex crimes against school boys.

Last month Best, 70, was jailed for 14 years and nine months for sex crimes against 11 boys at schools in Ballarat, Box Hill and Geelong.

Many of Best’s victims were aged between eight and 11 when he abused them while a school teacher and principal between 1969 and 1988.

On September 1, Best lodged an appeal relating to two of the five matters for which he was sentenced.

A County Court spokesperson was unable yesterday to say which aspect of the conviction the appeal relates to.

est had earlier pleaded guilty to, or been found guilty of, 27 child sex offences against boys at schools he taught at between 1969 and 1988.

He had initially contested these charges.

A spokesperson for the Christian Brothers Oceania, which funded Best’s defence in the trial, said last month that Best maintained his innocence.

Best remains a member of the Christian Brothers order.

One of Best’s victims living in Ballarat but who cannot be named for legal reasons said yesterday the appeal was “ridiculous”.

“He has every right to appeal, and it is just another step in the legal process, but what does he hope to prove? His credibility is already gone completely,” the victim said.

“I know that there are victims of Best who still have not come forward, and I say to them please come forward now so his crimes can be fully known.”

His offences occurred at St Leo’s Christian Brothers College at Box Hill, St Joseph’s College in Geelong and St Alipius at Ballarat where Best raped a nine-year-old male student.

He was sentenced in the Victorian County Court on August 8 and ordered by Judge Roy Punshon to serve 11 years and three months in jail before being eligible for parole.

Since 1996, six juries have convicted Best of sexual assaults against young boys. When sentenced in August Best was already in jail serving four separate terms for indecent assaults against boys at his schools.

It is also expected civil action will be brought relating to offences committed by Best and victims have called for a parliamentary enquiry into as many as 30 suicides linked to Best’s crimes.

A spokesperson for the Christian Brothers Oceania declined to comment for this story.

Church paedophile Best jailed in Melbourne

15:25 AEST Mon Aug 8 2011

Victims of one of Australia’s worst paedophiles hurled abuse at the Christian Brother who devastated their lives after a judge sentenced him to almost 15 years’ jail on Monday.

Robert Charles Best, 70, was sentenced for 27 offences including the rape of a nine-year-old boy.

As Victorian County Court Judge Roy Punshon ordered Best be taken to the cells, the courtroom erupted as victims and their families vented their rage.

Cries of “maggot” from the mother of one victim and “f***ing arsehole” and “you dirty f***ing dog” from two of his victims echoed around the room as Best was led away.

Best’s only sign of emotion came when the mother of a victim turned and abused him as he stood in the dock.

He merely smirked and shrugged his shoulders.

The outbursts came after Judge Punshon imposed sentences totalling almost 50 years, some to be served cumulatively but most concurrently. He will serve a maximum 14 years and nine months.

The longest sentence is six years for raping a nine-year-old grade three student at St Alipius primary school in Ballarat in 1969.

The court heard the boy, who had a physical impairment, passed out after being raped by Best and was then beaten by another Christian Brother until he denied anything had happened.

Judge Punshon told Best his crimes committed over almost 20 years against 11 boys had caused enormous misery and harm.

“The victim impact statements … are a powerful reminder of the devastating effect of your crimes,” the judge said.

“Yours was a grave breach of trust from someone who was a teacher and a spiritual guide.”

Best, along with some of his Christian Brother colleagues, had preyed on vulnerable boys who were powerless to complain, the judge said.

Outside court, one victim called for a full inquiry into sex abuse in the Catholic church.

“We really need to look into the reporting mechanisms in the Catholic church related to sex offending,” the victim said.

Best faced a series of trials in which he initially answered 43 charges involving 17 boys he taught at St Alipius, St Leo’s at Box Hill in Melbourne and St Joseph’s at Geelong.

After juries found Best guilty of 21 charges in the first eight of those trials, he changed his plea during the ninth trial, admitting the six charges remaining against him.

Best first faced charges in 1996 when he received a suspended sentence after being found guilty.

The court had heard Best had a fetish for caressing the buttocks of pre-pubescent boys but had maintained he was heterosexual.

It also heard he was a violent and callous bully who would beat his victims if his advances were rejected.

Judge Punshon also noted that Best had not resigned from the Christian Brothers, nor had he been asked to.

Following Monday’s sentence, the Christian Brothers movement apologised unreservedly to Best’s victims.

“The Christian Brothers are deeply saddened by these events, especially by the great distress and suffering caused to these victims and their families,” Brother Brian Brandon said in a statement.

Brother Brandon refused to discuss the matter further, including whether there were any plans to dismiss Best.

Civil actions are planned against both Best and the Christian Brothers on behalf of his victims.

Best will be eligible for parole after serving 11 years and three months.

His sentence is the second longest given to a church paedophiles, behind Father Gerald Ridsdale, who was in Ballarat at the same time as Best and was jailed in 1994 to 18 years.

Justice day for Christian Brother rapist

August 8, 2011

THE boy was nine years old when he was called into the principal’s office.

Fearing he was about to be given the belt, the youngster was relieved when told he was there just for a talk.

The grade 3 boy was then told to take off his pants, and he was raped.

The boy thought he was going to die and blacked out.

Today, 42 years after his ordeal, the little boy, now a man in his 50s, will finally see his attacker pay for this crime and a string of other sex offences against young boys.

Christian Brother Robert Best, a convicted serial paedophile rapist, will be sentenced on 27 charges of abusing 11 boys at schools where he taught between 1969 and 1988.

The prosecution has asked Victorian County Court Judge Roy Punshon to send Best, now 70, to jail for at least 16 years.

But court action against him won’t end there; two civil compensation actions are set to begin.

Best originally faced 43 charges relating to offences against 14 boys, but pleaded not guilty and insisted each charge be heard separately.

In 1996 he was convicted of several sexual assaults against young boys. And in 2011 he pleaded guilty to 27 separate charges of abusing boys at St Alipius primary school of Ballarat, St Leo’s Christian Brothers College at Box Hill and St Joseph’s College, Geelong.

It is estimated the Catholic Church has spent more than $1 million funding his defence.

The boy who was raped in Best’s office at St Alipius in Ballarat was beaten and threatened by other Catholic brothers and priests when he tried to tell what had happened to him. The man wept as he told the court his story.

Best, who was in his late 20s when he raped that little boy, calmly listened to the evidence against him.

Five more of his victims struggled through their statements, describing him as a mentally deranged sadist and a pervert, who exploited and ruined them.

One faced him in anguish, others wept and one broke down, unable to finish his testimony.

Today the Victorian County Court will address this suffering, and his victims will finally know what justice feels like.

Sins of the fathers still haunt abuse victims

Martin Daly

August 6, 2011

THERE’S a man walking around Ballarat with a haunted look in his eyes. His disposition is gentle but he’s a tortured soul, attacked by demons he often cannot control. He sometimes cries in the streets when he sees happy children. He’s also an alcoholic and dysfunctional, and he talks to the dead.

On Monday, as many in Ballarat prepare for a momentous day in their troubled lives, this man, who wants to be anonymous with the pseudonym Steven, will be talking to the dead again, moving from grave to grave in the local cemetery, whispering a message he has waited a long time to deliver.

“Please be at peace,” he will say to his two brothers and his cousin. “This is the day of justice for you and for me..

Then he will go to a crowded and tense County Court in Melbourne where notorious paedophile Christian Brother Robert Charles Best, 70 – one of a ring of Catholic educators and a priest who sexually brutalised and terrorised many of the city’s children over years – will be sentenced on 27 counts relating to sexual violence against children aged seven to 13.

The extent of the appalling child sexual abuse by Best, convicted paedophile Father Gerald Ridsdale, the then parish priest, Christian Brother Edward Dowlan, and others, largely at three local schools, may never be known. The multi-generational damage they have inflicted on families, including the spouses and children of their victims, is, however, decades later, almost palpable.

Ballarat, with its church spires and Catholic institution architecture, is a one-time bastion of Catholicism. But throughout the city there are now structural and psychological monuments to the sex abuse that has tarnished the church and damaged lives.

An alleged church cover-up of the crimes condemned the child victims to further torment, while more potent evidence of the abuse can be found in various graveyards where 24 young men are buried. They killed themselves, according to university researcher Detective Sergeant Kevin Carson, in the years after the abuse by Best and Ridsdale. Steven believes his brothers and cousin are among them.

Steven’s life story, as with many of those who suffered at the hands of paedophile priests and religious institution educators, is a litany of self destruction. He fled Ballarat for many years because he couldn’t bear the painful memories of the prolonged sexual abuse by Best and Ridsdale that started in grade 6. He was aged 10.

He started counting one day the school friends he knew from Ballarat catholic schools – St Alipius, St Paul’s and St Patrick’s College – he knew had been abused and who had killed themselves. He stopped at 13.

“The ripple affect [of the abuse] is huge in Ballarat … devastating,” he says. In a victim’s impact statement, he writes of the tears he sheds on seeing innocent and happy children because they remind him of what he has lost.

There is disdain among many for the Catholic Church because of the abuse in Ballarat. Others feel hatred. Steven is a spiritual man who believes in God. But he is no longer a Catholic. He would do almost anything to start again so he could avoid the abuse that has ruined him and he wonders what life would have been like had he been born a Protestant. “I would never have gone to that school,” he says.

Stephen Woods, 50, the son of a policeman at Bungaree, just outside Ballarat, was from a very Catholic family of seven children. By the time Best, Ridsdale and Dowlan and raped and otherwise sexually abused him, he didn’t want to have anything to do with the church either. When he returns to Ballarat now, he sees everywhere monuments to the abuse by violent and sadistic men. “That’s where Ridsdale raped me,” he points ”… over there is the school where Best got me.” The abuse started in grade 6, when he was 11. Best once forced him and another boy to strip and fondle each other in front of him, and Ridsdale raped him when he went to talk to his priest about the abuse by others. Peter Curran’s family believes the abuse from Best, Dowlan and Ridsdale that Peter suffered in Ballarat caused him to take his life with a knife. He used tell him wife, Colleen Curran, how much he hated the Catholic Church and that he wanted his children to never enter one. He started drinking at 14 and became an alcoholic and could be violent, which Colleen believed had to be linked to the abuse he suffered as a child.

He told her little about the abuse during their marriage but one night he saw a television program lauding the good deeds of Brother Edward Dowlan and, according to Colleen, ”he just went crazy”, shouting at the television that Dowlan was an abuser. He immediately called police and demanded that something be done. Dowlan later received a minimum of six years’ jail after pleading guilty to 16 counts of indecently assaulting 11 students under 16 between March 1971 and July 1982 at St Alipius, St Thomas’s College, Forrest Hill, at St Patrick’s College, Ballarat, and at Cathedral College, East Melbourne.

Peter was already on a downhill trajectory and the Dowlan television incident only made him worse. He drank continuously, but fought for the sex abusers, particularly his tormentor, Best, to be brought to justice. He had also been abused by Ridsdale.

Colleen learnt from Peter – who went to St Paul’s, St Alipius and St Pat’s – that he had fought back against his abusers, but the “men of God” then beat him up. He told her he had been beaten, aged nine, at home and accused of lying when he told his family what had happened at school. As an adult, he used go out at night with a sledge hammer to destroy church property and did damage at St Patrick’s College and at St Alipius primary school.

Colleen Curran will not go to court on Monday to hear the judge sentence Best, described in the legal proceedings as evil, a bully and a pervert. Instead, she will tell her dead husband: “They got the bastard, finally.”

Sex abuse led to 26 suicides says policeman

Nick McKenzie and Richard Baker

July 30, 2011

AS MANY as 26 Victorians have committed suicide after being abused by two notorious paedophile clergymen, according to information gathered by a senior Victorian detective.

In interviews with a university researcher, Detective Sergeant Kevin Carson of the Ballarat Crimes Investigation Unit has revealed that during his investigations into Father Gerald Risdale and Christian Brother Robert Best – which led to both being convicted – he discovered that up to 24 young men had killed themselves in the years after they were abused by one or both of the men.

Detective Carson has recently learned of two more suicides, bringing his count to 26.

A research paper prepared by lawyer Judy Courtin, a PhD candidate in law at Monash University, examining the Catholic Church and child sexual assault, says that according to Detective Carson, the information about the suicides was discovered during the course of recent investigations into Best’s abuse.

Detective Carson told The Saturday Age he was unable to speak to the media about his findings, but stood by the information in the research paper and was prepared to testify about it before any official, broader inquiry.

The research paper says: ”Detective Sergeant Carson has a list of the full names of these young men and the circumstances surrounding some of the suicides. The detective did not go in search of this material. This information was provided to the detective during his routine investigations into the sexual assault crimes of Brother Robert Best [and Risdale].”

According to information uncovered by Detective Carson, those who have killed themselves after being abused include up to 18 young men who attended St Alipius Primary Boys School in Ballarat, four who attended St Leo’s school in Box Hill and two who attended a Catholic primary school in Horsham.

According to the research paper, one victim from Ballarat who was sexually assaulted by Best, and who was interviewed by Detective Carson, ”told of many other boys he knew who had committed suicide over the years.” Some of the living victims of Best have also told Detective Carson that they were contemplating suicide.

The revelation of the suicides comes amid growing pressure on the Baillieu government to launch a formal inquiry into the Catholic Church’s handling of sexual assault complaints in Victoria.

State Labor MP Ann Barker, who has just returned from Ireland where she studied government-initiated inquiries into the Catholic Church’s response to sexual abuse cases, told The Saturday Age that she had written to Attorney-General Robert Clark to request a meeting to discuss the need for a similar investigation in Victoria.

The head of the Ballarat archdiocese, Bishop Peter Connors, said yesterday he had met 30 or more victims of sexual abuse during his 14 years at Ballarat and had always apologised for ”the horrible effect it has on them”.

He said he had heard people talk about several suicides in the area.

Bishop Connors said he was open to the prospect of an inquiry in Victoria.

How to get help

If you have been the victim of sexual abuse, you can seek help at any time through the Victorian Centres Against Sexual Assault by calling 1800 806 292 or going to

For other help or information, visit call Suicide Helpline Victoria on 1300 651 251 or Lifeline on 131 114.

Best’s victims push for parliamentary inquiry

30 Jul, 2011 12:51 AM

BALLARAT victims of Christian Brother Robert Charles Best are pushing for a parliamentary inquiry into his and other Catholic priests and brothers sexual misconduct, in a move that has been welcomed by Ballarat East MP Geoff Howard.

The Courier understands there are at least four victims who are pushing for the inquiry.

Mr Howard said, based on his current knowledge of what happened, he was in support of a parliamentary inquiry into the time Best was a teacher at St Alipius Christian Brothers School in the 1960s and 70s. However, he said he would need to look into it more closely. “I am in favour of pursuing a parliamentary inquiry on face value,” Mr Howard said.

“I am interested to follow up on the issue to see whether an inquiry is the best way of pursuing the matter. It’s a matter of following up on the best way to resolve the issue to support these people who have been violated.”

Mr Howard said he had been in contact with some sexual assault victims years ago, but had not been in contact with any for some time.

He encouraged victims to come forward to him in order to help pursue the inquiry.

Catholic Bishop of Ballarat Peter Connors last night told the ABC’s Stateline program he would support and cooperate with any inquiry.

Ballarat Detective Sergeant Kevin Carson who was involved in the investigation of Best said yesterday he was aware of a push for the inquiry.

“I don’t know what is in the submission, but I have spoken to people putting it together and giving it to parliament,” he said.

Detective Sergeant Carson said he was confident an appropriate decision would be made about the need for an inquiry.

Best was found guilty earlier this year of one count of buggery, 24 counts of unlawful and indecent assault of boys aged under 16, and two counts of aggravated indecent assault. He will be sentenced on August 8.

Christian Brother pleads guilty to sex abuse counts

Steve Butcher

May 31, 2011

THE voice of paedophile and Christian Brother Robert Charles Best resonated strongly from the dock of Melbourne’s County Court.

Best yesterday announced his name, age, occupation and address in an almost defiant tone after offences he committed between 1975 and 1988 were read to him. But his tone flattened when he replied “guilty” six times in answer to the question of how he pleaded to offences against three victims.

The 70-year-old’s admission to charges involving three boys over a 14-year period from 1975 ended a long legal pursuit for justice by victims, investigators and prosecutors.

His pleas also lifted a court order issued almost a year ago that today enables The Age to report that juries in six separate trials since November have found Best guilty of 21 sex offences against eight victims.

He was acquitted of two charges of sexual penetration and gave evidence in some trials, which were all tenaciously defended and held one after the other. A complainant died before one trial.

Best was convicted in 1996 of offences against boys at a Ballarat school where he taught, and in 1998 he won a retrial after being jailed on similar charges. He was charged again in 2008 with crimes committed when he was a school principal.

Prosecutors Amanda Forrester and John Livitsanos told Judge Roy Punshon late yesterday of a resolution that alleviated the need for five further trials.

With Best’s pleas to six charges, including two of aggravated indecent assault of a boy under 16, Ms Forrester announced the discontinuation of some charges and a permanent stay of others.

She said Best’s pleas “will clear all of the matters in respect of this accused”, crimes all-up committed between 1969 and 1988.

Defence counsel Sarah Leighfield asked that a date for a plea in mitigation be set in July to allow reports on Best from an oncologist and a psychologist.

As Best stood and gave his pleas, one of his victims turned to stare at him as the man’s mother wept and embraced her son.

Christian Brothers Oceania yesterday issued a statement after the sudden change in Best’s legal position, offering a “sincere and unreserved” apology to the former students sexually abused by him.

Its executive officer for professional standards, Brother Brian Brandon, said the Christian Brothers were “deeply saddened by these events, especially the great distress and suffering caused to these victims and their families”.

He added that the Christian Brothers “view abuse in any form — and, particularly, the sexual abuse of the young and the vulnerable — as repulsive”.

Best, who said he was a retired teacher now of Port Phillip Prison, will return to court on July 25.


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