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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

the community voice of reason « Previous | |Next »
July 9, 2008

We can see the common sense voice of community reason in action in Carbrook, Queensland, as it responds to Dennis Ferguson, a convicted child molester or paedophile--- living in their midst on a government-owned rural property with police protection and under police guard and surveillance 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He will be moved once court proceedings against him are finalised.

Ferguson is there whilst the Queensland Government appeals District Court Judge Hugh Botting's decision to dismiss the sex charges against Ferguson on the grounds that Ferguson could not get a fair trial in Queensland.

Dennis Ferguson's location is set to get noisier, with protesters using megaphones, horns and sirens from the fenceline, as well as burning effigies, to force him out. It looks like there is a lynch mob in formation with people waving nooses. There have been a number of threats against Ferguson's life and that's why he has been given police protection.

So what happens to those who look like Dennis Ferguson? Presumably, they will be beaten up by the enraged mothers, fathers and grandmothers protecting their kids from the devil-like monsters stalking their fair land. No doubt there will be calls and pressure from child protection advocates for convicted pedophiles moving into communities to be publicly identified. Under Megan's Law- -type legislation allows details of sex offenders, including their photographs, offences, and residential addresses to be accessed by the public – often through an internet register.

Wouldn't a register revealing the whereabouts of sex offenders lead to ex-prisoners who have served their sentences being targeted in the community by vigilantes? So we have double jeopardy, in that the sex offenders would endure additional sentencing by way of public humiliation and exclusion from employment, housing and the ability to build normal relationships.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:21 PM | | Comments (14)
Comments

Comments

To deny that a lot of people would probably kill, to seek revenge,or to stop an sexual assault on ones own child,is a reality.

What the law is trying to do,is counter the natural and innate emotions people have,in a so called civilized society,where this particular crime,brings out the worst actions in all of us,and sees all common sense thrown out the window.

I can sympathize with these people who don't want this animal in their neighborhood,
and if the law was not the ass that it is,he would have been legally dispatched, long ago.

But as a society,the law must take its course,and if we let people carry on like this we will have anarchy.

I think I'll go along with the "The judge is a moron" theory.
At least this lot of rabble havent had their signs written for them by Channel 9

Phil,
anarchy in this situation looks like a lynch mob driven by a bunch of vigilantes.

Les,
the judge may be right. Ferguson may not be able to get a fair trial in Queensland. The events of the last few days do give support to that judgement.

Bond University criminologist Paul Wilson says that the kind of public reaction to sex offenders as is happening in Queensland:

is simply going to drive that person further underground. And there is a real danger that is going to lead (the ex-prisoner) to lash out in a horrible way against the community by committing if not another sexual attack, another violent attack.

So far Ferguson has been placed in areas that lend themselves to an association between redneck mentality and lynch mobs, but if he was placed anywhere you'd see similar reactions from neighbours. Maybe not nooses and effigies, but certainly protests.

Les blames the judge, but I think the public response indicates that sentencing for these kinds of offences does not match community expectations and standards. There's no way he could get a fair trial here because the media has been extreme, but letting him go back into a media-fed panic was no solution.

Yes, there's a lot of ignorance and unjustified fear, but Ferguson is a repeat offender. He's an exception to low recidivism rates and apparently does not acknowledge that he's done anything wrong. What, realistically, can be done with such a person?

Lyn,
You are right there. He is convicted paedophile who does not acknowledge he has done anything wrong.
Gary,
This area of the medias right to show his picture is being debated at present.
Currently under the Mental Health act if a person absconds from a psychiatric facility they are protected under this act and the media can not use their name or picture but if they abscond from a correctional facility they can. I think when these laws are revamped they will take into consideration cases like Ferguson's and other areas that relate to the media.

Also I haven't watched your footage here but what I taped and watched a few times without sound pointed out quite clearly that the crowd themselves displayed signs of grief and trauma. I would say that many were drawn to the place to vent their anger of their own situation from childhood.

We have a good system here of jury selection. It works for all other cases whether they have been in the media or not. They will decide fairly.

Mob rejection of presence of a convicted sex offender in the neighbourhood seems a common phenomenon.

But how likely is it that such a person will subsequently attack local children? There have been a number of studies of recidivism by convicted sex offenders but there seems no effort to widely publicise the findings.

A research paper last year prepared for the Victorian Sentencing Advisory Council, "Recidivism of Sex Offenders, notes in the executive summary:

Despite the fact that there is now a large body of evidence on the nature of sexual offending and the characteristics of sex offenders, misconceptions still abound. Legal and policy interventions that focus on the few offenders who offend against strangers may deflect attention and resources away from the large number of sex offenders who offend against someone they know and whose offending is therefore mostly hidden, but is no less devastating.

For every Dennis Ferguson there may be a dozen other people who attack members of their own family or of the family of trusting friends, and who may never have their names put on the public record or have to answer for their offences. The belt-and-braces security measures put in place for Ferguson seem to preclude any possibility of his currently offending.

The Ferguson case is unusual as, despite the apparent evidence, he might not be formally tried and exonorated or convicted. If this happens, he is doomed to spend the rest of his life as a suspect.

So how dangerous might he actually be to the community? Nobody can be sure, any more than we can be sure that none of the voices leading the outcry against him are innocent of abusing their own children.

I thought the same thing Mike. If it's true that one in four or five kids is sexually abused there's a good chance that a handful of the kids being dragged along to join in the protest have been abused by the same people doing all the protesting.

Personally, I think that if Ferguson does spend the rest of his life as a suspect it's no less than he deserves, and as you say, that in itself would work to stop him from accessing kids. It does seem though, that our justice system is not equipped to deal with this case.

For the sake of it, pretend there is no such thing as media. Someone like Ferguson would do his time, be released, offend again, do his time, be released, offend again and on and on. We need something better than that, if only to restore public confidence in the system.

Lyn. you say

He [Ferguson is] an exception to low recidivism rates and apparently does not acknowledge that he's done anything wrong. What, realistically, can be done with such a person?

He's still a person with rights, however damaged his moral reasoning. So he needs to be incarcerated humanly. The Criminal Law Amendment Act can empower judges to detain Ferguson indefinitely if two psychiatrists determined that the convicted prisoner was incapable of controlling his sexual instincts.

Justice Derrington chose not to invoke Section 18 of the aforementioned Act and instead sentenced Ferguson to 14 years' jail. Ferguson's done his time and he is a free man--sort of.

Judge Hugh Botting last week threw out the two child-sex charges against Ferguson in fear that a jury could find him guilty based on his notoriety despite the Crown case being ``tenuous'' and ``extremely weak.'' Botting's judgment cited both politicians and the media for a long list of negative descriptions of Ferguson, including "well-known pedophile", "notorious pedophile", "unrepentant", "considered unrehabilitated" and "convicted child molester".

The Bligh Government has allowed a situation to occur where notorious persons like Ferguson are hunted like animals, from shelter to shelter by a lynch mob high on hysteria. Said government needs to provide notorious sex offenders with special accommodation, monitored by corrective services.


Gary, the State Government's role in this hasn't been emphasised as much as it should have. When he was hounded out of Miles, Judy Spence told the media where he was going next. Why would you do that?

To ensure that the local community are suitably primed and worked up. Feeding the chooks.

Judy Spence, or somebody impersonating her, has commented about it on the OLO General Forum.

http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=1966

As often happens at this blog the meaningful discussions occur between Gary and Lyn.
Gary is doing his best to prevent a tabloid-driven descent into lynch law and protect the basic notion of habeas corpus as absolute. So he's right, as far as I'm concerned. Look what happens in Dr. Haneef type cases where basic first principles are ignored or tampered with.
But Lyn and the rest are right to explicate the feelings of a community faced with a disinterested judiciary and an individual who himself appears to have little comprehension of, or respect for, the rights of others.
I understand an idea that has Ferguson living in cottage accomodation within an institution has been suggested; also what about electronic bracelets or microchipping, to reassure the parents, in this atypical situation.
Surely Ferguson himself would agree to such a condition, since he's eager to demonstrate his rehabilitation in relation to a nasty sort of offence, in order to reassure others rightly or wrongly in sincere fear of him?
What about a voluntary lie-detector test?