There’s a child sex offender living in your community now

The revulsion felt toward child sex offenders is understandable. Indeed, it would be a worrying thing if we didn’t feel such revulsion. But the current vigilante fervour towards a now notorious convicted paedophile, Dennis Ferguson, who is lawfully living in south-east Queensland is ill-directed.

This guy was chased out of the small town of Miles, north and a bit inland from Brisbane. He was moved to an area just south of Brisbane, where reportedly a Christian group is being funded to help watch over him. The locals there are also trying to chase him out. Personally, I would rather know exactly where he is and that he is being watched by an organisation funded to do so, rather than have the risk of him being driven underground. There have been known sex offenders living in my neighbourhood in the past, and while everyone would rather such people didn’t exist, I didn’t feel any less safer for my daughter as a result.

The unfortunate facts are that children are much more likely to be abused by a relative or an authority figure they are in the care of. That doesn’t mean we can blithely ignore ‘stranger danger’, but it means the bigger risks are much closer to home.

Indeed, according to a report just yesterday in The Courier-Mail, “almost 6500 child-sex charges were laid across the state between July 2005 and June 2007”, with Brisbane alone having with 560 people charged with indecently treating a child under 16.  That means there’s a very good chance that pretty much every suburb in Brisbane has a child sex offender lurking within it as we speak. I’m not in a position to judge how dangerous or otherwise Dennis Ferguson is, but at least we currently know where he is and can be reasonably confident he is being closely watched. I doubt we can say the same about the many other perpetrators of child sex offences living amongst us at the moment.

On a related issue, there are some interesting legal issues surrounding why Mr Ferguson is out in the community at the moment which are also being somewhat obscured by the current hysteria. Charterblog – the excellent law blog which examines the operation of the Victorian Chater of Human Rights – examines some of those issues and looks at the Judge’s reasons to halt Ferguson’s trial. Again, it is understandable that people are concerned at the possibility that Mr Ferguson may not be tried for crimes he’s accused of, but the reasons why that has happened should not should not be ignored, and nor should the fact that he has already been held in jail on remand for over two and a half years for offences he has not been convicted of.

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11 Comments

  1. Did your editor go on holiday, Andrew?

    Sorry, that’s a little snide. There are a few uncharacteristic grammatical and spelling errors in this post. Maybe you’re just finally managing to relax after so long working so hard. I hope so.

    Great post, and I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s a perfect analysis.

  2. Thanks Simon – have had a go at polishing it up a bit. My unofficial editor used to be on my staff so he’s out of a job now, but I’m sure he’ll be pleased to note that I’m performing poorly without his proofreading brilliance to make me look good.

  3. I think the government will keep moving Dennis Ferguson around until someone takes the law into his/her own hands and executes him.

    I’m tired of perpetrators of crime having more rights than their victims. I think the parent action groups are well within their rights in hounding “Dennis the Menace” out.

    There are, indeed, plenty of paedophiles around – probably far more than one per suburb.

    In addition to relatives and authority figures, unconvicted paedophiles can be found among your neighbours and your children’s friends’ parents.

    I would like to see funding going to victims – not thousands of dollars being used to support this person whose actions, attitudes and mental health anomalies make him unworthy of freedom.

  4. Innuendo and supposition seems to have taken over from proof and evidence these days. “6500 child-sex charges were laid across the state between July 2005 and June 2007”, and how many, I wonder stood up to scrutiny. Accusation is easy and in some cases profitable.

    False accusation of sexual abuse is a standard tactic in our Family Court. I sat and listened to one women in that court accuse her ex of being a murderer and an international terrorist. The judge didn’t even bother with seeking proof; he just said ‘You are being ‘Fanciful’. No calls even to the Terrorist Hotline !

    How many of these 6500 are fanciful, I wonder. How many cases were proven, beyond reasonable doubt? And sentences passed down.

    Lorikeet squawks that “There are, indeed, plenty of paedophiles around – probably far more than one per suburb.”

    Oh, really? So there is proof and evidence of this, or is this just another statisticoid pulled from a vivd imagination to scare the underpants of grown-up children?

    The feminisation of our society has seen an increase in hysteria which inflates suspicion with outrageous claims and is itself an ecouragement to vigilante activity. I am sure Lorikeet does not suggest that people such as this fellow really ought to be ‘executed’ by person’s unknown (one of the ‘ plenty of ‘ murderers in your suburb, perhaps ?) for daring to live in a place, untried and uncondemned by a court, but even mentioning that someone might is tantamount to encouragement.

    Meanwhile another double-standards oddity occurs to me. Over the past ten years or so we have seen woman after woman, often teachers, molesting schoolkids, even having babies with young boys barely out of short pants, and yet nary a one goes on a sex offender list. Its all blokes.

    Gosh oh golly, there just might be a female school teacher living in your suburb, right next door to the neighbourhood murderer, across the road from the secret paedophile.

  5. amfortas@aapt.net.au: Wow! What a potpourri of ideas riddled with holes.

    You wonder “how many (child-sex charges), stood up to scrutiny”.
    By all means, first read (and cross check if you like) the linked article rather than lamely “wondering”.

    “Almost 1300 accused pedophiles were sentenced or pleaded guilty … between July 2005 and June 2007”. This gives some indication of the scope.

    From your account, I doubt that the “woman in court accusing her ex of being a murderer and a terrorist” was charged nor prosecuted in the absence of proof, so is hardly relevant even anecdotally.

    There may be no “proof nor evidence”, but regretfully, the law of probability would suggest that Lorikeet squawked correctly when she said there is likely more than one paedophile per suburb (never mind allowing for yet to be apprehended villains).

    Did not sound like Lorikeet would be dialling 000 if she saw the vigilante action mentioned, more likely leading a popular cheer squad, though she may correct me on this point.

    RE: “Untried and uncondemned by a court”say again? Surely you were distracted and referring to Andrew Bartlett, not Dennis Ferguson who has spent 14 years in prison.

    As for “women molesting schoolkids”, they are a small minority compared with males, seemingly around one to four per cent.

    With those female offenders that did hit the news, contrast the age & sex of their victims to the littlies that fall prey to the likes of Ferguson.

    I recall reading of at least two female teachers prosecuted and flagged as sex offenders, eg. this one who will never teach again and was placed on a sex offenders register.

    I’m not sure whether you’re trying to minimise paedophilia, plead the innocence of both accused and convicted offenders, or take an always fun shot at radical feminists.

  6. Amfortas how does ‘feminisation’ become part of the discussion on the vigilante action re Ferguson?

    Remarkable how some manage to include their particular little anxiety issue in any discussion.

    Andrew, excellent article.

    Your point that children are far more likely to be abused by someone known to them sits very uncomfortably with all of us. I think that is why when a known paedophile, who is a stranger to us, is identified makes us feel better. It is easier to dehumanise a stranger.

  7. Lorikett, can you explain exactly how Dennis Ferguson has more rights than anyone in the community. It would appear that he has less rights – given that his whereabouts have been broadcast in media across the state.

    As he is believed to be in personal danger (and I don’t think there are too many people who think he isn’t), protection is provided.

    While I understand many paedophiles struggle, surely we should help them try to overcome their urges. I believe a program in the UK is doing this rather well with rather low recidivism rates. Hounding people across the state is hardly going to help anyone – except perhaps the media which seems to thrive on this.

  8. Andrew Bartlett:

    I have as much loathing for what child molesters do as does any other normal person in the community …. but I am appalled at what has been happening in this particular issue.

    This whole thing is about power – sheer power – and nobody gives a d*mn about the kids at all!

    For the news media it is nothing but an exercise in power and to demonstrate their absolute control the agenda “we will tell you what to believe”. Could this issue possibly be used to intimidate politicians, along the lines of what forces could be unleashed against them if they weren’t compliant and docile?

    For the pseudo-religious nasties who are trying to turn democratic Australia into another United States, this issue is a god-send. It gives them a chance to show their political clout. It is a golden opportunity for them to mobilize a mob of “concerned citizens” and from that mob to select likely recruits. Why not? It’s an age-old method that worked wonders for the Communists and the Nazis alike. It is a win-win situation for these political exrtremists because if you oppose what they are doing …. then you are branded as supporting “paedophilia” [forget logic and forget honesty; it’s persuding the mob that counts].

    The situation has not been helped by news media presentation of what the civil liberties expert, Terry O’Gorman, has said on the matter. I don’t doubt that he has said much in support of the rights of victims of crime – and in this issue, that’s the children …. however, all the news media has shown us is his defence of the rights of the offender or alleged offender. That does LOOK unfair and callous.

    The news media, too, has come very close to inciting mob action [I myself can’t see much difference between this media event and what happened at the Cronulla riots] …. yet the same news media seems too shy to publicize sound advice on how to prevent children becoming victims in the first place – why?

  9. GZG:

    I agree with most of what you said, except for the part about radical feminists.

    Dennis Ferguson is a previously convicted paedophile, and should be kept completely away from our children permanently. To my knowledge, most paedophiles are not rehabilitatible, as they consider their behaviour accords with their sexual orientation.

    A friend of mine received Father of the Year in the 1990s for his work with children. My friend has had to counsel numerous victims of paedophilia – having also dobbed quite a few of them in to police. Those who went to jail were back on the streets after a few short years.

    I too have counselled a lesser number of victims of paedophilia – also one paedophile who had learned his “trade” from his abuser and then inflicted it on another person.

    I’m sure there are women who falsely accuse their ex-husbands in the Family Court, but I think they would be a minority group. Most of us want our children to see their fathers, but not if they endanger them. We don’t want our kids to be returned to us in body bags, to end up in psychiatric clinics, or to become perpetrators of what they have experienced.

    I really admired the policewomen who jeopardised her job by speaking out for all of our kids. Her suggestion that they simply keep Dennis Ferguson on the prison grounds seemed logical to me.

    Terry O’Gorman sticks up for so many people who don’t deserve our sympathy that I think he’s lucky that a lynch mob doesn’t turn on HIM.

    Muzz:

    In answer to your question, first of all the judge let a previously convicted paedophile off the hook without a trial, which I think has really upset the Minister for Police who is now copping a lot of flack.

    The government is spending huge sums of money protecting this poor excuse for a human being, when the money should be going towards the rehabilitation of his victims.

  10. It is ironic that in the period since Justice Botting ordered the permanent stay of proceedings against Ferguson on the grounds that he would be unlikely to get a fair trial, key media outlets and the vigilante mobs have behaved in a way which amply bears out Justice Botting’s reasoning and makes it less likely that the State Government’s appeal against his decision will succeed.

    There is a common thread between this case and the recent controversies over photographs of naked minors. In these cases legitimate community feeling about child welfare has become diverted into a form of cathartic gesture politics directed against high-profile symbols, to the detriment – in my view – of a rational discussion of practical measures to minimise the incidence of child abuse and maximise the rates of detection and correction when it does occur. In similar vein, the Courier-Mail has begun a campaign for “Megan’s Law” to be introduced in Queensland. In the last day or so of googling “Megan’s Law” I have been struck by the lack of empirical evidence provided, even by its proponents, to show that Megan’s Law has actually succeeded in reducing the incidence of child sexual abuse. Today’s C-M also quotes criminologist Paul Wilson stating that there is no evidence that Megan’s Law reduces the incidence of child sexual abuse. What is needed is rationally formulated and holistic policy rather than cathartic gestures.

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