The inaugural Troppo award for defending the rule of law

I couldn’t believe my ears today when I heard The Queensland Police Minister, Judy Spence interviewed about the paedophile who is living in the semi-rural town of Carbrook on Breakfast on ABC Radio National. As you no doubt know, there’s a baying mob there right now. I might be doing a bit of baying myself if I lived there with young kids.

But the Minister’s job is to uphold the rule of law. And that’s what she’s doing. So there she was patiently explaining that the community have more to fear from the 2,000 plus peadophiles that are free and not under police surveillance and guard, and that she can’t do anything until this guy is locked up which she hopes he is by a court.

Ken will, no doubt, know much more than I do about it all, and I can’t say I’m that interested in the details. But I must say I admired her for doing what all the professional minders would have had her duck which is defend the government’s actions as a matter of principle and logic. She even addressed a town meeting which was, it seemed from what she said, drowned out by a vigilante mob. Anyway, like she said, if they try to do the paedophile in, they’ll be arrested.

It’s a technical matter called the rule of law. Have a listen to the interview. It has an other worldly ring to it – like Gough Whitlam lecturing the community on any of the numerous things he lectured them on, or Don Dunstan getting genuinely outraged by Phillip (Sorry, Sir Phillip) Lynch simply making up allegations against him without a shred of evidence, or Malcolm Fraser defending the boat people.

It’s a bit of a different game these days. I expect the Qld Govt lost a few votes, but I thought the Minister did the right thing, and accordingly she wins the award – which comes with a fleet of Rolls Royces and a private jet (if only you guys will get clicking on the adds all around here.)

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56 Responses to The inaugural Troppo award for defending the rule of law

  1. Jacques Chester says:

    Hear hear.

  2. I heard that in the car. What a dreadful mob of yobbos. I thought she was the Police Commissioner but perhaps not all Police Chiefs in other states are women.

    Anyway I thought she did a great job and especially in not losing her cool in front of a mob of mindless idiots.

    Now it looks as if this Ferguson is a menace given record and in particular his re-offending – but what to do? Would’t it be better for the locals to just quietly keep tabs on him if they think the police can’t or won’t do the job and just follow him around in shifts 24/7 rather than going hysterical in a mob outside the gate.

    PS: I’d say it’s a braying mob.

  3. NPOV says:

    Unfortunately the “you have far more to fear from {insert statistically far more significant risk here}” line has never worked on anyone, and probably never will.

  4. Patrick says:

    Unfortunately, FXH, it sounds like this mob was more appropriately described with the more sinister ‘baying’ (as in a pack of hounds at the chase) than ‘braying’ (as in a donkey).

  5. Mangoman says:

    Good to see a Minister doing her duty and in a tough situation. Both baying and braying looked to be accurate descriptions on the news footage that I have seen. Both sinister and ignorant.

  6. TAUST says:

    It probably would help in maintaining law and order if this guy was relocated to a chardonnay and latte district

  7. Kit says:

    In response to the above posts, particularly Francis Xavier Holden…

    Obviously you were not at the meeting and have based your opinion on news reports, which let’s face it are often incomplete, sensationalist and at times grossly incorrect. I was at the meeting. And yes there were some more vocal members of the community who at times shouted and who at times only offered useless solutions to this problem eg put Ferguson 6feet under. There are always going to be a handful of people like this wherever you go,

    However, the majority of the people at the meeting were rational, intelligent members of the community who went there to listen to what Judy Spence had to say as well ask questions and voice their concerns. Unfortunately however, most of Judy Spence’s responses never actually answered the questions that were asked, and instead were just the usually government rhetoric i.e answering without really giving an answer. This as a result frustrated most people who were there.

    Here are the facts as I understand them:
    Dennis Ferguson has been released as there is not currently enough evidence to prosecute him for the crimes he is currently accused of committing (the rape of 5yr old girl in 2005). The judge in charge of the case also stated that it was impossible for Ferguson to get a fair trial. Whether we agree with the verdict or not, we find that Dennis Ferguson is now a “free man”. This is where it gets interesting…

    Dennis heads to Miles to live with someone he knows. (According to Judy Spence the man has no family and of course very few friends. Not surprising given that the man has been convicted of kidnapping a raping 3 young children). Obviously the people of Miles are not keen to have a convicted child rapist living amongst them and voice their opinions their democratic right. Dennis becomes scared and asks for some kind of police protection.

    The government and police then make the decision to move Ferguson to a government owned (taxpayer owned) house in an even more populated area. The government (taxpayer) also decides to spend $1000 a day on the man to ensure he is safe. Latest reports estimate that it will cost taxpayers upwards of $250 000 for Ferguson to live there over the coming weeks (this figure takes in consideration the $1000 paid to a church group to look after him along with the cost of police protection etc.)

    At the meeting, we were told by Judy Spence that there isn’t anywhere else they can place Ferguson – there were just no other options.

    Here are my concerns and queries regarding the placement of Dennis Ferguson in a highly populated area of Brisbane (and these are shared by most people I know):

    Firstly, I don’t know anyone who could truly feel comfortable letting their children play outside on their property or on the local roads or in parks knowing that there was a convicted child rapist living within such close proximity. Now Judy Spence’s response to this was that there were already thousands of paedophiles living in Qld and that we need to make sure that our children are educated.

    To this I respond that no amount of education is going to give a young child the ability to defend themselves against a grown man with sick intentions. And yes, whilst there are paedophiles in the community, she has just added ANOTHER one!

    Secondly I ask why should taxpayers have to foot the bill? Remember upwards of $1000 a day to protect, help etc a man who wilfully chose to break the law and assault the youngest members of our society? I am utterly at a loss as to why this man garners so much attention and protection. In my lifetime I have known several women who were battered by abusive partners or husbands and in my lifetime I have never heard of ANY OF THEM being placed under indefinite 24hr police protection or having $1000 a day spent on them to ensure that they are safe from their husbands who may have threatened their lives or the lives of their children. Perhaps if $1000a day had been spent on the recent case of Karen Bell and her 3 children, her husband, Gary Bell would not have had the opportunity to kill her 3 children as well as himself on their property in Pericoe?

    So one wonders why a man convicted of kidnapping and raping children walks out of prison, and is GIVEN a 4 bedroom home on 10 acres in one of the most sought after residential areas in Brisbane to live in (my husband & I would love to have the money to buy 10acres of land in Carbrook – this is our dream), is fed, clothed & supported by the tax payer as well as given 24 hour protection??? Is this how we get ahead in Australia? We hurt children and then we’re on easy street?

    Judy Spence says there is no other option. Well I have one. I don’t think Dennis Ferguson should be executed or castrated or anything medieval like that. I am not a violent person or wish violence on others, but here is a fair and equitable solution for all.

    Judy Spence should walk down to the Carbrook home Dennis is in and say the following:

    “Dennis in 2 hours ALL taxpayer funded protection and accommodation for you will be withdrawn, because the community and taxpayers that I REPRESENT are telling me that they don’t like the solution I have come up with. So you have two hours to consider the 2 options I’m placing before you.

    The first option is that you go it alone – you make your own way in the world as a free man just like every other member of this community. You find your own place to live, find a job that will support you. We cannot afford to tie up any more police resources or community money protecting you, I mean we can’t do that for battered women so why should the community accept that we do it for you. If that means that you are assaulted etc. then we’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it. But remember you are a convicted child rapist, and you needed to really think about the full consequences of your action when you committed your crimes.

    The second option if you are concerned for your safety is that you may come and live on the grounds of a minimum security prison where we will also be able to monitor you like we are currently doing at Carbrook. You will not be classified as a “prisoner”, however, given that the taxpayer will be footing the bill for you to stay on prison grounds as well as be fed and clothed, this means you will have to contribute to the up keep of prison grounds or work each day on the prison farm.

    These are your two options, you have 2 hours to come to a decision. Remember Dennis, you CHOSE to break the law, you need to understand that there are consequences and that the nature of your crimes means that most people will never want to be in your presence again.”

    Quite simple really. Definitely not an extreme or violent solution. It’s Mr Ferguson’s choice from there. Everyone is happy – Dennis is safe, community feels safer, taxpayers are not paying through the nose to support one of the most vile members of our society.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this :)

  8. FDB says:

    Kit – an elegant solution, that at once misses the point of this post and demonstrates why this post is quite correct.

  9. C.L. says:

    Gough Whitlam and boat people in the same sentence. Mmm.

    “F—-ing Vietnamese Balts.”

    “These Vietnamese sob stories don’t ring my withers.”

    Otherworldly stuff.

  10. Kit: I would trust your argument more if you didn’t go on about “taxpayers”. You don’t like Ferguson living near you? Fair enough. If I had kids and I was in the same situation, I’d feel the same. Well, it looks like you’ll get your wish. The government is going to move the man again. So do you want to use taxpayers’ money for that? Or do you want to do it on the cheap? “Here’s 5 bucks for a bus pass – now piss off.” I don’t think you’d like that either.

    Trust me – confounding moral outrage with hip-pocket nerve is not a good look.

  11. Ken Parish says:

    “the placement of Dennis Ferguson in a highly populated area of Brisbane”

    I’m not very familiar with S-E Queensland, but quickly checking out Carbrook on Google Maps indicates that it is:

    (a) not within the Brisbane metropolitan area at all(it’s in a rural area between Beenleigh and the coast); and
    (b) not “highly populated” in any reasonable sense of that expression.

    Kit’s apologia for vigilante-ism is precisely that. As he/she acknowledges in passing but then proceeds to ignore, the Qld government is unable to have Ferguson imprisoned because a judge has determined that he cannot receive a fair trial on alleged new offences (he served his sentence for previous offences). That raises a range of issues about juries that I’ll post about when I get time, but they’re not germane to the immediate issue of what the Qld government can realistically do about Ferguson.

    Kit seems to think that it would be perfectly OK to accommodate him on prison grounds in a state of de facto incarceration. There are several problems with this. Most importantly, I strongly suspect that most Queensland prisons are located in areas of significantly greater population concentration than Carbrook (see http://www.aic.gov.au/research/corrections/facilities/qld.html). Thus Kit’s suggestion is just a particularly cynical piece of NIMBY-ism, and ignores the fact that the residents of the area to which Ferguson was transferred would no doubt just as quickly be whipped into a vigilante frenzy by the MSM, as the good burghers of Carbrook and every other place to which he has been shifted (and which the media has then disclosed to whip up an ongoing tabloid extravaganza. Moreover, this very tabloid extravaganza is one of the main reasons why Ferguson cannot currently be charged and – hopefully – convicted and imprisoned as he may well deserve. Why is Kit not focusing his/her anger on the media which has in considerable part created this situation, rather than the Minister who, as Nicholas suggests, is just doing her best in an impossible situation not of her making? Moreover, as Nicholas observes it’s a courageous and principled best, qualities we seldom see in politicians and which certainly are not in evidence in the current behaviour of Kit and others of similar ilk.

  12. Kit says:

    FDB – I’m a little confused?

    I was responding to Anna Bligh’s and many other’s opinion that the concerned Carbrook residents are ALL just a mob of idiots & thugs – my apologies if I have indeed missed the point or misinterpreted some of the above posts…

    “Good to see a Minister doing her duty and in a tough situation. Both baying and braying looked to be accurate descriptions on the news footage that I have seen. Both sinister and ignorant” – Mangoman

    “Anyway I thought she did a great job and especially in not losing her cool in front of a mob of mindless idiots” – Francis Xavier Holden

    How does one interpret the above comments? I am happy to be corrected if I’ve missed the point, honest!

    I too watched the news footage as I was keen to see how the meeting was portrayed. The 30 second snippets of news footage only seemed to show the loud idiots (a handful of the 1000+ gathering), whilst not one of the intelligent, calm members of the community that got up to speak was shown. We were there for more than 3 hours and many people spoke. So like I said, don’t get too sucked into the sensationalist media stories. As I also said in my previous post most questions were not answered at the meeting, and Judy Spence seemed unable to “process” any of the sensible solutions suggested to her.

    I was hoping that my post might open up the discussion for a sensible solution to the problem rather than the current one which we are told by Judy Spence is the only one they could think up.

  13. Liam says:

    FDB – Im a little confused?

    Apparently so. There already exists a perfectly sensible solution; the State of QLD doesn’t lock Ferguson up unless he’s convicted, and the police protect *everyone* from dangers, both kiddy-fiddlers and lynch mobs.
    Everyone wins.

  14. Ken Parish says:

    “I was hoping that my post might open up the discussion for a sensible solution to the problem rather than the current one which we are told by Judy Spence is the only one they could think up.”

    OK here are a couple of suggestions.

    (1) Change the law retrospectively to allow for trial by judge alone in cases of serious alleged crimes where a fair jury trial cannot be conducted due to prejudicial publicity;

    (2) If the evidence against Ferguson is in fact nevertheless not strong enough to sustain a conviction but there remain strong grounds for suspicion that it is not safe to let him loose in the community unsupervised (as there may well be), the government should consider enacting tightly delimited laws along similar lines to the “control orders” held by the High Court to be valid in relation to suspected intending terrorists (see Thomas v Mowbray – about “Jihad Jack’ Thomas). I think one can draw reasonable parallels between the gravity of harm to the community posed by someone about whom there is cogent evidence of a possible terrorist intent and someone with a very serious recidivist record of sexual offences against young children. This would justify a durable system whereby a judge could approve an executive application for reasonable restraints on the liberties of such a person e.g. directing where they live/work, frequent reporting and observation, restrictions on places they may visit or approach (schools, childcare centres etc) on pain of immediate re-imprisonment, and wearing of an unremoveable electronic tracking device so that authorities know where he is at all times without needing to spend a fortune on protective/supervisory staff. This sort of system could be applied equally to any serial pedophile: after all, there are others just as dangerous as Ferguson who for whatever reason are not singled out by the media.

    Within the context of such a regime it would also be entirely appropriate to provide for protection of the identities of recidivist ex-offenders like this so that they are not subject to vigilante activity. There would be no plausible basis for a public “right to know” the whereabouts of serial pedophiles (a la Megan’s Law) if there was a secure and credible regime in place to ensure that they are kept under appropriate official observation.

    Incidentally, although I’m a strong civil liberties supporter, I think the gravity of harm inflicted by serial pedophiles is such that they should be regarded as having forfeited any absolute right to unrestricted liberty even after serving a sentence of imprisonment. Criminological research shows that the recidivism risk of serial pedophiles like Ferguson is huge – something like 80% of them re-offend. In such circumstances community safety trumps individual liberty IMO.

  15. Kit,
    Our legal system is based on a presumption of innocence. In this case, as I understand it, this person has not been convicted of anything for which he has not served a sentence and been processed correctly. As much as it pains me to say it, as a result he is just as entitled as any other member of our community to live a normal life.
    He is also entitled to the same protection against people who would seek to do him harm (whatever the basis for that) and, except where he has been deprived of this right by a court exercising powers given to it by the Parliament, to live where he chooses to do so.
    If he has justifiable fears of assault (and it looks in this case as if he does) then he is, and should be, entitled to an appropriate level of protection to allow him to pursue as normal a life as possible.
    I do not like this outcome any more than you do, but our society should be one where there is the rule of law. Suggestions from a public meeting do not constitute the law and, at least from what I can see above and elsewhere, Judy Spence was sticking to what she could legally do.
    There may be reason to reform the law on this point, but we cannot (or at least should not) apply any reforms retrospectively. As a society we can indicate our disapproval of his behaviour, we should keep a good watch on our kids and there is no need to invite him around for dinner, but, short of a legal basis for doing so, there is nothing else that should be done.

  16. Ken Parish says:

    Further to my suggestion at comment #15, I’ve just checked and discovered that there already IS a Queensland law along the lines I’ve suggested – the Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offenders) Act 2003. it empowers a judge either to make an order extending a serial sexual offender’s term of imprisonment or to impose something of a similar nature to a terrorism “control order”. The Act was held constitutional by the High Court in Fardon v Attorney-General (Qld) in 2004.

    I wonder why Judy Spence hasn’t applied for such an order in relation to Ferguson. I suspect it’s because under the Act as it currently stands an application for such an order must “be made during the last 6 months of the prisoner’s period of imprisonment”, and that time has already passed. However, I don’t see why the Act shouldn’t be amended to allow an application at some later time if new/unforeseen circumstances arise that heighten the assessment of degree of risk.

  17. gilmae says:

    What’s heightened the assessment of degree of risk though? A case that wasn’t strong enough to stand up in court? Seems appealing in Ferguson’s case but it also sounds a little like an end run around the presumption of innocence. Maybe even being punished twice for the last conviction.

  18. Ken Parish says:

    The Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offenders) Act 2003 contains numerous safeguards against being just an “end run around the presumption of innocence”. See especially section 13.

    There are other precedents for restricting the liberty of certain people for community protection reasons apart from imprisonment for conviction of a crime. Terrorism control orders are one such example, but so too are mental health orders for confinement of people with mental illnesses that make them a serious danger to themselves or the community. I don’t think it’s too much of a logical stretch to suggest an analogy between serial offenders like Ferguson or Fardon and such mental health cases.

    Finally, in my understanding the case against Ferguson concerning fresh allegations has never been heard or determined by a court on the evidence, so it isn’t possible to say that it is a “case that wasnt strong enough to stand up in court”. The judge simply ruled that he could not get a fair trial before a jury in Queensland (and arguably now the rest of Australia as well) as a result of prejudicial media publicity and inflammatory earlier statements by politicians (something Judy Spence is wisely ensuring she doesn’t compound to satisfy the frankly ignorant demands of the vigilante brigade). Amendments to the Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offenders) Act 2003 would simply allow a judge to take into account the evidence concerning that alleged offence in deciding whether there is in totality sufficient “acceptable, cogent evidence” and “to a high degree of probability” that he “is a serious danger to the community in the absence of a division 3 order”.

  19. gilmae says:

    Here are the facts as I understand them:
    Dennis Ferguson has been released as there is not currently enough evidence to prosecute him for the crimes he is currently accused of committing (the rape of 5yr old girl in 2005). The judge in charge of the case also stated that it was impossible for Ferguson to get a fair trial. Whether we agree with the verdict or not, we find that Dennis Ferguson is now a free man. This is where it gets interesting

    I’ve heard that from several sources, not just Kit above; that while the media only cared about the inability to get a fair trial bit but the judge also ruled that the prosecution couldn’t make a case strong enough to go to court. If that’s not the case than you are the lawyer and I am not. If it was the case though, what new evidence is a judge using – in this case anyway – to make a decision on a control order? An unproven accusation?

    Yes, I know. You genuinely don’t need to followup to tell me. Judges are judges because we trust them to make these decisions, particularly when backed up by the kind of provisions found in Section 13. I’m allowing the irits with the “bury him” crowd to get to me.

  20. Ken Parish says:

    Even if the District Court did make some sort of ruling on the strength of evidence against Ferguson as well as the impossibility of a fair jury trial (I’ve seen similar media reports but the judgment is not yet available on AustLII), that would not and should not prevent a judge from assessing the totality of evidence concerning the danger Ferguson poses to the community in proceedings under the Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offenders) Act 2003.

    I’m equally troubled by the vigilante brigade as by the dilemma of what to do about serial pedophiles like Ferguson. It seems to me that section 13 strikes a good balance between community protection and individual rights, and that allowing for post-release applications for a division 3 order in exceptional circumstances (which Ferguson’s might well be) is entirely consistent with that balance. Moreover, there’s an individual rights side-benefit to a strong and credible regime like that. Politicians could much more easily defend provisions allowing released offenders to be relocated and given new identities (as in witness protection programs) if they were combined with ongoing division 3 orders on conditions that ensured that the offender would permanently be under effective surveillance while living in the community.

  21. NIMBY says:

    Why not house him in a mining town, that would be a laugh, or on a cattle property even? If its costing over a thousand dollars a day to keep him here give him a plane ticket to wherever he wants to go and with anonymity he might only cost 20 bucks a day to keep. If he went to South east Asia and didn’t behave he might fall foul of the law there. In the UK there is a law that can be used to ban someone from a community. If we had that here he could be banned from everywhere except the furthest reaches of habitable land. This is Kit’s point I think, and I agree, where he belongs.

  22. JC says:

    If he went to South east Asia and didnt behave he might fall foul of the law there.

    Gee Nimby, that would really go down well with out northern neighbors. Let the government finance overseas travel to Asian countries for our sex offenders. Your moniker has an appropriate ring to it.

  23. Liam says:

    Never thought I’d say this, but well said Joe.

  24. Kit says:

    Great! Weve got some discussion going :) Just a couple of things

    ABOUT CARBROOK:
    I think people might be a little confused about Carbrook. Firstly it isnt rural. Yes people have larger acreage blocks, but like most cities, Brisbane is a sprawling metropolis and all of our suburbs are linked/run into each other. Carbrook isnt out of the city of Brisbane, like a rural town as has been suggested. Most people consider it part of Brisbane and Logan.

    Dennis Ferguson is living approx 5mins drive from one of Brisbanes largest shopping complexes (the Logan Hyperdome). He is also within walking distance of 13 child care centres, primary and secondary schools.

    Secondly I dont think we should just rely on the population density of an area as an indicator of risk. For example the Brisbane City/CBD is very high density, but youd be hard pressed to find any children living in the CBD or riding bikes down the street. Carbrook on the other hand may not have as many people living there as the city central, but there are lots of kids – I think that over 30% of the population in Carbrook is children.

    ABOUT TAXPAYERS & THE COST:
    Firstly I dont live in Carbrook and I dont have any children. I do have family living in Carbrook and the Redlands area (next suburb over). I am a primary school teacher and I also have several friends who work in childrens services.

    When I talk about the cost to house Dennis Ferguson in Carbrook and to protect him 24 hours a day I do it for several reasons. Firstly Im a taxpayer like everyone else. I also live in a democracy where we elect government officials to represent the people. So surely I have a right to questions how my tax dollars are spent and to examine how said government officials are representing their electorate. Right now pretty much every resident in Carbrook and I imagine quite a few more people from the greater Brisbane area, perhaps even Qld and Australia are scratching their heads wondering why so much money is being spent on one of the most least deserving members of our society and why their elected officials are not listening to the wants of the public ie they dont want a convicted child rapist being housed by the government at their expense right next door.

    As a school teacher in the public sector my mind boggles at how far $1000 a day could go towards helping our grossly under resourced schools. I also wonder at what a $1000 a day could do to help those who work in childrens services who are already overworked and understaffed. As I said, I have friends who work in childrens services and I hear the horror stories and what they have to deal with each day in terms of child neglect and abuse. Often they are unable to help to their full capacity due to lack of time and resources, given the huge case loads theyre dealing with. Just last month, the school I work at contacted DOCS because were concerned about a student who is clearly rarely washed or fed. We have rung/faxed several times but the department is very slow at following these things up, largely due to the massive workload.

    I also wonder how the money being spent on Ferguson might help the victims of his crimes I mean those kids are going to need counselling and support for many years to come. At least one of his victims is reportedly suicidal.

    ABOUT THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM & CURRENT LAWS:
    I am very pleased to see people discussing the laws as they stand and how they could be changed in the future (re: Ken Parishs comments). This needs to be discussed further and changes need to be made. Thats one side of the coin. But it doesnt deal with the problem at hand that a convicted paedophile is living in the suburbs at great expense to the taxpayer. I met the neighbours who are living in the houses next to Fergusons at the meeting on Tuesday night. They said that his house is clearly visible to them, as is theirs to him. One mother expressed concern about her children freely playing on their property in future.

    The chances of Ferguson being able to do anything at present is incredibly slim given the amount of people supposedly watching him. But this doesnt take away from the fact that many people in that area now will change their behaviour drastically in regards to how far they let their children go and how they lead their lives when they know that a paedophile is in such close proximity. Dennis Ferguson should not have to live in fear and nor should residents.

    ABOUT THE VIGILANTES:
    Can I say once and for all that I DO NOT SUPPORT VIOLENT OR THREATENING BEHAVIOUR, even towards convicted criminals I think I already said this in my previous posts. I dont want to see Dennis Ferguson attacked, hurt, harassed etc. I definitely dont support those who may be hell bent on scaring the man.

    I too am a great supporter of civil liberties and our right to exercise personal freedom. I conscientiously object to a number of laws that already impinge on my own personal freedom. I do believe Dennis Ferguson has a right to feel safe. I certainly do not condone the behaviour of some who would threaten his welfare or life as some people on this blog seem to think I do.

    What Im asking for here is for us to be realistic and fair. Dennis Ferguson has done his time and is a free man. Personally I think that he should have been locked up for a lot longer than he was for what he has done, but the courts saw fit to release him and I accept that. But given that he is not safe in the community, given that he is unable to support himself (lets face it who is going to give him a job or rent a house to him etc?) we need to accept that technically he isnt a free man. Yes he is free from jail, but he will never be able to lead a truly free and normal life. So what I was proposing in my first post was a solution for everyone.

    Offering him the chance to live on prison grounds was not an attempt to make him a de facto inmate (Re: Ken Parishs comments No 12.). Im not suggesting he be locked up every night or have to adhere to any rules etc that actual prisoners do. I visited a minimum security prison farm as a teenager (just visiting, not sent there!!) and had the opportunity to walk through the accommodation as well as see the farm itself, meet prisoners and find out how they ran the farm. It was very laid back, I can tell you!!

    Id be happy to stick a caravan on minimum security prison grounds (for want of a better idea!) where Ferguson could live and come and go as he pleased. He could still be kept under surveillance to whatever extent police/government felt fit he is currently being monitored by the police. All Im saying is that if he was on police/prison grounds he would not have to fear people standing outside his house every night with placards yelling abuse. Most prisons you will also find, do not share a boundary line with residential homes (re: Ken Parishes comment No 12) unlike where he is in Carbook, so one would assume that the general public would feel somewhat more comfortable with this arrangement.

    Once again, in my 2 option suggestion posed to Dennis Ferguson, can I point out that he would be able to make HIS OWN CHOICE he is a free man after all. Hes welcome to live in a community, but the fact is the police cannot protect him 24hrs a day for the rest of his life lets be realistic people!! He would not be forced back into a jail either.

    People made heaps of suggestions at the meeting on Tuesday night. Local businesses even offered to pull together to build him a house that was out of the way. Some offered to buy him a remote property to live on. Im not saying I agree with any of these suggestions or that it would solve any problems, Im just trying to point out that most people do want to find a peaceful and realistic solution.

    Not everyone wants to see the man dead. Most people just want to know that their kids are as safe as possible and that theyre not going to be paying through the nose INDEFINITELY to protect a man from a community who are not comfortable with him living near them in the first place.

    Finally, and this is mainly in response to Ken Parish, Im not ANGRY about what is happening Im actually quite a peaceful person who tries as much as possible to take a leaf from the likes of Mahatma Gandhi and his methods for enacting change ie peaceful protest and passive resistance. Thats why Im keen to discuss on this blog as well as write letters and talk to people, rather than hang out outside Dennis Fergusons house in Carbrook yelling abuse or plotting ways to kill him!

    Nor am I criticising Judy Spence when it comes to her turning up and answering questions at a public meeting. I was very impressed that she turned up. We had one particularly noisy/aggressive man yelling at her behind where we were standing at one point during the meeting. I asked this guy to calm down and try to think of something constructive to say. I dont think she should be the target of peoples anger or abuse.

    My issue with Judy Spence was her but we have no other options response to the public. There are plenty of options, she just needs to think outside box/square. She also needs to listen to the public that she represents and perhaps consider more effective ways to spend the money that they give her and the government every week in the form of tax.

  25. Why not house him in a mining town, that would be a laugh, or on a cattle property even? If its costing over a thousand dollars a day to keep him here give him a plane ticket to wherever he wants to go and with anonymity he might only cost 20 bucks a day to keep. If he went to South east Asia and didnt behave he might fall foul of the law there.

    Shorter NIMBY: the real problem is not that he’s a paedophile, but that he’s living near me and costing me money!

    Most Asian countries don’t appreciate our child molesters, or anyone else’s for that matter. In addition, sexual abuse of minors is a crime under Australian law even if it happens elsewhere. Finally, what if he doesn’t doesn’t fall foul of the law… or doesn’t straightaway?

    Back when I was in ‘Nam, there were one or two who got caught out by the authorities, such as Gary Glitter. The one who stuck in my mind was Peter Mueller, who had done a runner from Austria and ended up teaching in S

  26. Kit – I’ve only just got around to dropping back in.

    Clearly I was only refering to radio audio I had heard and it did sound like mindless idiots at the meeting. I’m sure there were some who were there who wern’t mindless and/or idiots. Possibly you from what I can see.

    The options you set out have a superficial appeal but in essence you are saying that the Minister should say to this guy:

    ” There is evidence that there is a significant number of idiots in this community who want to do you harm. They no not why nor do they care. Many of these idiots wish at least to violently assault you enough to threaten your life, others wish to see you dead and some of them are stupid/mad/criminal/deficient/have records for violence/bored enough to actually do it in the next day or two . We are going to let them loose in two hours. What do you want to do?”

    That isn’t acceptable in a civilised country and you know it.

    Ken’s ideas are worth looking at. And similar stuff has been done at least here in VIC a bit. Generally (and IANAL) I seem to remember there has been legislation that names specific people who are deemed to be a threat to others (or themselves) but are about to be released from a prison term and have not yet re-offended or been charged. Public Safety. Gary David comes to mind. Public Safety.

    One hardly needs to be a bleeding heart to see that the issue of locking someone up for public safety without charges or even alleged offences is a slippery slope in most democracies.

  27. Kit says:

    Sorry Francis, can you tell me where I mentioned locking Ferguson up without charges?

    In my suggestion he could come and go as he pleased, he would just be offered residence in a facility that could offer him protection.

    At the end of the the day, as I keep saying we are paying for all of this. If Dennis wants to pay for his own accommodation and do exactly what he wants that’s fine by me, just don’t ask me to pay $1000 a day for his kind of “freedom”.

    Can I also remind you that we are dealing with a man who has never accepted blame for anything he has done and has refused ALL treatment offered. ie Dennis breaks all the rules refuses, to accept responsibility or seek help, but we should still pay for him to do as he pleases.

    I take it most people on this blog have never had to deal first hand with the aftermath of a child being sexually abused? It might change your your silvertail socialist stance a little if you had.

  28. Good to see some efforts to have a genuine discussion around the issue.

    In regards to Ken’s comments at 17, 19 and 21 – my understanding is that Ferguson was actually the key reason why the Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offenders) Act 2003 came into being. According to Jeremey Gans in his post on the case, the Act “only applies to people who are still serving a sentence (presumably due to the Queensland governments fear that allowing a person to be re-imprisoned wouldnt have looked so good in the High Court)”. I presume there is an expection that retrospectively imposing restrictions on someone for an old offence might not be Constitutional.

    Ferguson hasn’t actually been convicted of anything since the Act was passed. As Gans points out, the Judge’s reasons for dropping the case was the combination of seriously prejudicial publicity AND “that the Crown case is so very weak“.

    That does not negate the possibility there is a genuine risk of Ferguson reoffending – I don’t know his case well enough, but I know others who think that is a reasonable possibility. Of course, other people I know who treat sex offenders say that the sort of hysteria surrounding this case is about the worst thing you can do if you’re trying to reduces the chances of reoffending.

    For those that say we should just lock the guy up anyway, we should acknowledge he has already spent two and a half years on remand on charges which have now been dropped which a Judge said was an extremely weak case. I’d also say that I am fairly sure that Mr Ferguson was a victom of child abuse himself. That doesnt excuse what he has done in the past, but I think it is relevant to the context none the less – especially as we think about what is best for preventing/reduce the level of abuse and assault of children.

    Proper supervision of the guy in a known location with regular reporting is probably the best that can be expected in terms of community safety. Having it in a remote location (Carbrook is probably best described as rural suburb of the greater Brisbane/Redlands/Logan conurbation) might make people feel better (except for the people who live in the remote location), but is not likely to add to public safety or to his chances of rehabilitating and not reoffending. If it was lawful to put a tracking device on him too, I would not object to that, although I’m not sure it be restrospectively done for crimes/sentencing from many years ago.

    Certainly better than saying ‘you’re on your own mate’ and letting him loose. That’s obviously not good for his safety, but its not likely to be good for public safety or children’s safety either. Even locking him up despite no conviction or solid evidence of any new offence might protect us from him, but is not likely to be helpful in making society safer in general.

  29. I take it most people on this blog have never had to deal first hand with the aftermath of a child being sexually abused? It might change your your silvertail socialist stance a little if you had.

    “silvertail socialist”!? Come off it Kim, what happened to that inner Ghandi in you?

    I am sure at least a couple of the commenters on this thread have had extensive experience in dealing with the consequences of child abuse. Which may have something to do with the reason why they don’t think name calling will do anything to help make children safer. The same as people might enjoy the suging affirmation of righteous anger, but their yelling and carrying at the meeting at Carbrook doesn’t actually make chldren any safer either.

    I think ‘who pays for all this’ is the least significant issue here. If you are going to “offer him residence in a facility that could offer him protection” then someone is going to have to pay for it. Locking him in jail – which is where the goverment and plenty in the community would prefer he was if they could manage it, and where he has been on remand for the last couple of years – is almost certainly more expensive to the taxpayer. But frankly, the discussion is about increasing the safety of chlidren, not about what will cost us least. There’s lot of things I don’t really like my taxes being spent on either.

  30. sorry, meant to say Kit, not Kim, at the start of my last comment

    (I really must re-read these things just before I hit the submit buttong, rather than just after)

  31. melaleuca says:

    The likes of Kit also need to realise that the justice system is imperfect and fallible. Presumably there are convicted pedophiles, just as there are convicted murderers, who are in fact innocent. For that reason among others someone who has done his/her time shouldn’t be constantly harassed and victimised after release and the innocent until proven guilty thingie should be taken seriously.

    Hopefully we don’t convict as many innocent folk as the US- http://www.innocenceproject.org/news/StateView.php

  32. Draz says:

    Everyone, I think what we should be saying to the Minister is something like this.

    Minister, Dennis Ferguson is obviously causing a fair bit of concern in any community in which you decide to place him. He is a convicted rapist of young children and this deed has consequences, lifelong consequences. He has done his time as far as the legal system goes and as such he is a free man. Lets treat him like one. No special treatment, just the same deal everyone else gets.

    Is it a good idea to upset 1000 or so generally decent people to pander to the needs of one man whose own actions have placed him where he is today?

    If Dennis Ferguson comes to you, the Police Minister, asking you for help, help him. But do it in a way that isnt going to upset the good folk of any community. One way to do that is to house him in a facility where the security infrastructure is already in place. He can come and go as he pleases, but no longer does he need police protection, and he isnt in a place where the community feels at threat. It would be less effort to do this than to put him in any community. If he doesnt want to go there, then make it clear that police protection will be removed imminently. Also make it clear, that anyone who takes the law into their own hands will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

    Given this option, and knowing the feeling he generates wherever he goes, spending some time in a secure facility might not seem like such a bad idea.

    He is high profile at the moment and it would be in his own best interests to live where the community feels safe from him. Eventually, he will become like the other 2,700 paedophiles living in Queensland, once people have had time to forget.

    And the cost of this process IS an issue. If anyone thinks that the cost of this is not an issue then you must be happy to continue writing blank cheques for the government without regard to the way it is spent. People need to take a more active interest in government spending. Not in just this case, but a lot of things. Figures of $250,000 are being mentioned as the cost of housing himmoney wasted when there are better alternatives.

  33. Ken Parish says:

    Andrew

    The Qld government might well have been nervous about constitutional problems back in 2003 when the Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offenders) Act 2003 was first enacted. They would not be likely to have those concerns today. Not only did the High Court hold the Act to be constitutional in Fardon v Attorney-General (Qld), but last year in Thomas v Mowbray the Court also held that terrorism control orders under federal law were constitutional. Control orders potentially involve every one of the restrictions on liberty I discussed above (including electronic surveillance bracelets) and may be imposed on someone who has never committed a criminal offence but is suspected of planning or being involved in one that hasn’t happened yet. A fortiori (as lawyers say to impress people) for a Qld law placing the same restrictions on someone who HAS committed multiple serious crimes and is also held by a judge on strong evidence to be a future threat to the community. Queensland isn’t subject to the full constitutional separation of powers doctrine unlike the Commonwealth. I don’t think there is any serious doubt that an amendment to allow post-release applications for orders under the Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offenders) Act 2003 would be constitutionally valid. They would certainly be a far more satisfactory and principled procedure than expedient ad hoc executive action to shift high profile released offenders from place to place propelled by media-driven moral panics generating vigilante mobs.

  34. Kit – I’m beginning think you were one of the idiots at the meeting.

  35. Draz says:

    Francis. I’ve read the posts and it seems you are responding to things that Kit didn’t actually say.

    You need to stop making comments like you just did and address the issues at hand. Kit seems to be doing that.

    The government needs to stop pandering to this fellow and provide a solution that works. And they need to do it NOW…

    And I was at the meeting too Francis. I would expect some of the comments you’ve made to date to come from a person who isn’t thinking about this issue but just jumping on the politically correct bandwagon without any real understanding of what went on that night.

  36. I’m beggining to feel like I’m at the meeting being yelled at because I don’t have a simplist populist solution that fixes everything for once and for all.

    I take it most people on this blog have never had to deal first hand with the aftermath of a child being sexually abused? It might change your your silvertail socialist stance a little if you had.

    What the hell is that supposed to mean? Didn’t you claim to be the sophisticated one at the meeting?

    I would expect some of the comments youve made to date to come from a person who isnt thinking about this issue but just jumping on the politically correct bandwagon without any real understanding of what went on that night.

    I’ve said before that I only heard a bit on the radio. I’m in Melbourne FFS. But that doesn’t change the substantive issue of what the hell you do in a democracy with rule of law with people who may be a clear danger but haven’t yet committed an offence or been charged or convicted. (for what its worth from what little I can see this bloke is likely to re-offend)

    The government needs to stop pandering to this fellow and provide a solution that works. And they need to do it NOW

    Pandering? You serious?

    Ok they need to do it now – what? next 5 minutes? in 1 day – 1 week – or what

    Ok you say what the solution is – and make it a legal solution.

  37. To Draz, Kit, others reading this who feel the same:

    (a) How is the government ‘pandering’ to this person? It is fairly obvious that this person’s safety is at risk. The fact that he is an unsympathetic character does not mean he has no right to be protected from violence – and the more hysteria gets whipped up, the more protection (and yes ‘cost to the taxpayer’) will be needed. If he was genuinely ‘free’, he could go wherever he wanted without telling the police or anyone else and do what he wanted. Hardly a good outcome for children. But if you think its mostly about to the taxpayer, it’s easily the cheapest.

    (b) a ‘solution that works’? A ‘solution’ is people grow up, get real, get rational and realise that having this person under controlled supervision without vigilante ‘justice’ baying outside his door is:
    (i) best for the taxpayer;
    (ii) best for keeping an eye on what he is doing – that is, best for child safety
    (iii) best for chances of not reoffending – that is, best for child saftey

    I’ve had released convicted child sex offenders living in my neighbourhood. I no doubt have unidentifed child sex offenders also living in my neighbourhood right now. Its not a nice thought, and yes I wish I could let my daughter play on her own in the park unsupervised, but I cant and I wont regardless of whether or not I know that a person previously convicted of such offences lives in my street.

    By far the biggest protectors of paedophiles are churches and other institutions that have children under their ‘protection’. If you want to show you really care about more appropriate responses to child sex offenders, go picket the Pope when he turns up in Sydney.

  38. This is rather odd.

    First, I agree with Nick.

    But I would like to apologise to Kit for the snide & bitter attacks that some others have thrown at her… when it was clear from the start that she was eager to engage only in constructive discussion to resolve an issue that rightfully leaves many people worried.

    And I find it weird and backward that Andrew Bartlett would then complain about Kit’s name-calling because she said “silvertail socialist”. This shows a drastic lack of perspective.

    Kit — while your innovative solution is interesting, the problem is that the current laws mean that the police need to protect anybody in danger. From what I know, the danger is real. So the protection must stay.

    I understand the instinct to ignore the law when it conflicts with perceptions of justice. Most of us like the scene in movies when the good guy ignores the bureaucratic wanker, breaks some petty law and saves the world. But I strongly believe we need to resist that temptation when it comes to real-world government. If the government/police started breaking their own laws when they considered it appropriate this sets a dangerous precident that nearly always ends with much greater danger than the original problem.

    But just because your first option might not be appropriate, that doesn’t mean there is no hope. You “voluntary jail stay” could be offered to him (without threat of removed protection). And Ken Parish has offered some suggestions for potential legal changes.

  39. My sentiments entirely John.

  40. Niall says:

    As a Brisbane/Redlands resident, I know the Carbrook area well and community wise, it is much as Kit describes it. Socio-demographically, it’s also very much as Channel Seven’s sensationalist promotion of the issue displayed. Let’s not forget that Logan City is the next ‘suburb’ over.

    Demographics aside, I find the government to have been placed in an invidious position by the judiciary. Further to the Radio National interview to which Nick refers, he neglects to mention that Judy Spence also declared that the people do NOT have a right to know where these paedophiles are being housed by police, social groups or in this case, government. I find that statement incongruous, especially in Ferguson’s case, give his habitual inclination to re-offend almost immediately he’s released from custody. Granted, media sources actively sensationalising the issue for the sake of filling broadcast time and attracting viewers, doesn’t go very far in helping to manage public sentiment, however I do believe the people have a right to know. I also believe the tenets of a legislative structure similar to the so-called US Megan’s Law needs to be seriously considered in the case of offenders like Ferguson.

    On the opposite side of the issue, Ferguson is, as police have stated, a ‘free man’. At least until the outcomes of the AG’s appeal to the Qld Court of Appeal 22 July. He is entitled to live in the same peace and protection which rule of law provides to us all. This issue is not a simple one and won’t be solved by community expressing vigilante-like outrage, burning effigies, or holding vigil. It can be solved by effective lobbying of relevant sectors of law and government to seriously consider legislation like Megan’s Law, which will work in our society.

  41. “weird and backward”?! whatever you reckon, John. Looks like you’re the one who’d rather stick to name calling as the easiest way to avoid the many constructive points that were raised.

    Rather than note the silly ‘silvertal socialist’ jibe, I could have picked on the far more offensive inference that everybody disagreeing with Kit had no idea and/or didn’t care about the effects of sexual abuse on children.

    The higher the level of righteous outrage or name calling has no correlation to how much a person cares about chlidren or about the issue.

    Anyway, I broadly agree with Ken.

    I also note there is a convicted paedophile living in inner-Brisbane who regularly hangs out right next door to a boy’s school. He is also being overseen and supported by a Christian group, just like Mr Ferguson is. Should he be run out of town or offered ‘voluntary jail stay’ as well?

  42. Tel says:

    Surely the cops can just find a few ounces of MJ in the back of the guy’s car, then put him in a temporary cell with Punchy McBruiser while the observation camera accidentally goes on the blink? Please forgive my cynicism but how silly of me. I just remembered that we need Dennis Ferguson running around free to ensure the media get a regular supply of good stories, and to ensure that public outrage is firmly diverted away from that woeful, expensive policy failure called “The War on Drugs”.

    I always like to cheer myself up with a good laugh thinking about the macho redneck moviegoers who paid twenty bucks to get an eyeful of leather and muscle in the movie called “300” so they could indulge in a bit of hero worship. Funniest of all is that these Spartan heroes were hard-core Socialists (probably the most extreme Socialists ever known on Earth), they were mostly Gay, and were well known for sodomizing young recruits as a sort of “welcome to the army” ritual. If I had to rank the biggest threats to myself and my family then human capacity for hypocrisy would be far ahead of a small handful of convicted sex offenders.

  43. Derek Barry says:

    Judy Spence was on the Queensland edition of Stateline last night issuing another calm and rational defence of her position on the Ferguson case and raising issues about mistaken identity attacks in the event of a Megan’s Law scenario. Unfortunately this side of the story is not getting the treatment it deserves amid the hysteria stoked up by the commercial media,

  44. derrida derider says:

    Yep, the crucial point is that the judge found the case against Ferguson was weak, and that was the major grounds for release. IOW the man, whatever his past, might be innocent of these charges. The “impossible to get a fair trial” bit was an afterthought, one that perhaps the judge would have been wise not to add.

    Though I’ve never understood the concern about pre-trial publicity because if the defence is worried about that there is always the option of a trial by judge alone. It’s a different matter once a jury trial is underway, of course.

    As for Kim’s suggestion of the option of voluntary imprisonment, he’d have to volunteer for segregation – prisons are full of the type of people who are keen on vigilante justice.

    And what’s with the two full years on remand and they still hadn’t got around to trying him? Those sort of delays are very unfair to both accused and victims, and expensive to boot. Surely cases where unconvicted people are imprisoned should get priority.

  45. Andrew — I didn’t call you weird and backward. I suggested your comment (criticising a relatively mild comment and ignoring more narky ones) was weird and backward. If you think my comments were abusive, you must have been shocked and appalled by what some other people here said!

  46. Michael Coombs says:

    What a waste of time this blog has turned into! So many people criticising each other rather than actually discussing solutions to the problem. The few people who have offered solutions, or been polite enough to defend those who have have been shot down in flames, have had their words misinterpreted or twisted (depending on how thick the person reponding to their comment is).

    Rather than getting so easily offended by other people’s comments and criticising those few people who are offering solutions and encouraging discussion (Kit seemed to be the first person to actually do this and continued to attempt to do this, along with a very small handful of others) the discussion has been intellectualised, personalised and sadly stunted! And we wonder why nothing ever changes… it’s because the time wasters on this blog are usually the useless blah blah’s that run in politics. If you’re one of the thin skinned touchy ones already taking offence to this post, then yes I’m talking to you.

    No doubt you’ll still be on here tomorrow posting away your criticisms of others and getting over-offended by everyone else’s comments… all the while saying that nothing can be done and offering not one insightful solution.

  47. Bill Posters says:

    > the problem is that the current laws mean that the police need to protect anybody in danger.

    This is a problem?

  48. larissa andelman says:

    The shockingly high rate of recedivism by men who sexually abuse children warrants a different approach from us (the state, the community etc) as compared to our response to dealing with people who commit criminal acts generally and other sexual crime offenses. Sterolizing them sounds simplistically appealing.

  49. Liam (Talking to me? You must be talking to me) says:

    I’m offended by your comment, Michael Coombs. You’re just giving unproductive criticism without offering any sensible solutions any of us can agree on. What a load of useless personalisation you in particular have brought to the thread.
    I don’t suppose anything can be done.

  50. wilful says:

    The shockingly high rate of recedivism by men who sexually abuse children

    Now I’m no sort of expert, but I believe that statement there is precisely the opposite of the facts. Paedophiles have a far lower recidivism rate than criminals generally.

    Michael Coombs, what a waste of time your post was. Almost ironic.

  51. NPOV says:

    “Sterolizing” them mind sound simplistically appealing to you – it sounds pretty ghastly to me. Interesting though there is some evidence that surgical and/or chemical castration does dramatically lower recidivism rates. The drug triptorelin apparently even has a 100% success rate on trials so far. I can’t say I feel comfortable about the idea, but given the alternative…

    http://www.safe-nz.org.nz/Articles/sexoffenders.htm

  52. Liam says:

    Sterolizing

    Indeed, what’s next, NPOV? Are we to face the threat of quadrophonic kiddy fiddlers?

  53. christine says:

    But but … if the guy is under police protection, then presumably that means that they are watching what he’s doing (with public funding). How does this differ in any practical way from getting the police to watch what he’s doing to make sure he doesn’t offend (with public funding)? Except, I grant, in who did the asking for the protection, but again, there’s no practical difference is there?

    Re FXH way back: “I thought she was the Police Commissioner but perhaps not all Police Chiefs in other states are women.” Oh goodness, that was very nice for a laugh, and to highlight how things can change. I must say even the idea of having a female police minister in Qld is lovely. Last time I lived there (15yrs or so), I don’t think it would have been a go at all.

  54. I think the Police Minister did the wrong thing. She should have called up one of the main demonstrators onto the stage and interrogated them in front of the crowd. “So what do YOU think we should do?”, etc. Obviously, the answers would be ridiculous and incoherent, and would collapse in contradiction before long. “Really? We should throw him in jail without trial?”

    Trying to shout down a mob is useless. You have to trick them into arguing on your terms, and watch as their arguments fall apart.

  55. On the other hand, the Youtube video is quite heartening at one level. Despite the irrationality of the crowd, it is always a cause for celebration when large numbers of people come to hold the state and its agents in contempt, regardless of the justice of their cause.

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