Published: 10 June 2011
Author: Angela Sdrinis
Why does the church continue to rely on technical legal defenses?
Angela Sdrinis reports on the case of serial sexual abuser,
Br. Robert Best.
In further media coverage of Christian Brother Robert Best, it is reported that he has pleaded guilty to numerous further offences against children who he had sexually abused while teaching at St Alipius primary school in Ballarat.
It is well known that during this period, Br. Best resided with notorious paedophile priest Gerard Ridsdale and for a period of time with the current Archbishop of Sydney George Pell.
Best was first convicted of offences against children in 1996. He fought the charges which were then brought against him but was convicted of a number of offences. After the 1996 trial, more victims came forward and there were further trials in 1998. Again Best pleaded not guilty but was nevertheless convicted of a number of further offences.
It is understood that the Christian Brothers paid for Best's defence and Best's refusal to plead guilty meant that his victims were put through the trauma of having to give evi dence. One wonders whether if Best had had to rely on Legal Aid, he would have more readily pleaded guilty.
In 2010, Best appeared before the Court facing yet more charges in relation to further victims. Eventually after a number of separate trials in each of which Best was found guilty, he decided to plead guilty in relation to the outstanding charges.
Br Brandon of the Christian Brother's Office of Professional Standards has been quoted in the media as deploring the sexual abuse of children and at being “saddened” by these events.
But he should be asked why the Christian Brothers covered any of Best's legal costs. He should also be asked why the Christian Brothers persist in relying upon technical legal defences that effectively make them immune from being sued for compensation by victims. Brother Brandon's crocodile tears simply serve to highlight the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church and its religious orders on the issue of clerical sexual abuse.