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.