I did my usual Today show segment What's Making News today and offered absolutely nothing in a way of firm opinion about this story. Pedophile Denis Fergusson was convicted of kidnapping and raping three children in Queensland in the 80s and served 14 years in jail for the crime.
Since 2004 he has been free and every few months, residents discover his is living in their community and there is a public outcry. Journalist Tory Maguire witnessed one such outcry and she wrote in The Punch today…
Ferguson is Australia’s least wanted man – free but not free –
finished his sentence but still imprisoned in the public outrage that
follows him where ever he goes.
And after years of shunting him around the country, supplying him
false names and fresh starts until he’s once again outed and driven out
of town, a permanent solution has not yet shown itself.
If ever there was a lightening rod for the community’s disgust at child sex offenders – Ferguson is it.
He’s straight out of central casting for the character of creepy
convicted pedophile – angry, slightly crazed looking, and with a
tendency to poke his tongue in and out like a lizard.
I was in Queensland on holiday a couple of years ago when the people
of one small town north of the border discovered he’d been resettled
there without their knowledge. The reaction was like something out of
The Crucible. It would not have been at all surprising to see the odd pitchfork
among the angry mobs outside the run-down weatherboard house he was
living in for a short time before locals caught on.
Last night on the ABC news people from the “family suburb” of Ryde,
in Sydney’s north west, described their suburb as a “candy shop” for
Ferguson. I had to look up and check I wasn’t still watching ACA when one
resident told the National Broadcaster: “In daylight saving in the
summer, this street, it would be like a candy shop for him; there are
children everywhere.” It’s just that kind of story.
Another said: “I cannot believe they’ve put this Mr Ferguson in a
street full of children that has bushland, hiding places, scout halls,
two schools and he lives at the end of the street.”
The problem for the Government, and for Ferguson, is no community is
going to willingly agree to taking Ferguson in, so each attempt to
re-settle him has to be done a little by stealth. Ferguson’s supporters say he has settled in the Housing Commission
flat in Ryde, and has made friends with the neighbours and started
helping in the community garden.
Whether you agree with him will depend on how strongly you believe
in the Australian justice system’s premise of serving your debt to
society through sentencing. I’m of the view that once someone has
served out their term they should be allowed to try to move on.
By ignoring the guidelines and demanding Ferguson be moved yet again
Borger has created an even bigger headache for himself. Which suburb
exactly is it appropriate for Ferguson to be placed? Whose children are
worth less protection than the children of Ryde, if that is indeed the
Borger probably should have said he’s here to stay, we’ll keep an
eye on him, get used to it. Until someone does Ferguson will continue
to be smuggled around the country like the Elephant Man and that’s not
how our justice system was supposed to be built.
You can read the full piece here…
Meanwhile, Fairfax are reporting that Ferguson is refusing to leave….
from the Housing Department and the Wesley Mission, who work with Mr
Ferguson, were today encouraging him to move.
Mr Collins said Mr Ferguson was determined to stay and that he was
"dismayed and appalled" by politicians who had made public statements
against Mr Ferguson. "There should be a refuge for people who have served their time," he said.
"[The Government] would hope he dies. If he died he'd be out of the way." But Mr Ferguson's neighbours were happy for him to stay, he said. "He's a 61-year-old disabled man, with 6 per cent vision in his right eye, his good eye. The man is a nice fellow, he's a good man who has transcended his problems."
One neighbour of Mr Ferguson said he deserved a fair chance. "What do we do with him? He's got to live somewhere," she told Fairfax Radio Network. "He's an elderly man now, he's frail. Until he does something wrong, what do we do?" The
woman, Mary, said she had no idea who Mr Ferguson was when she met him,
but appreciated the work he had done in a community garden.
just found him to be a very gentle and kind old man, the type of person
you were happy to have as a neighbour. He wasn't a drug dealer," she
said. "I felt quite ashamed of the way he was treated yesterday morning," she said.
"They [the media] were just hanging around and talking and laughing among themselves. It was just like a get-together party." Although it was encouraging Mr Ferguson to leave, the Government did not know where he could be moved.
don't have a destination identified at this stage … he'd be moved
somewhere temporarily until somewhere suitable could be found," Mr
Borger's spokeswoman said. But Mr Collins said the current "stir" would simply start again once Mr Ferguson's next location was "leaked". "That's why it's so important that we stay and stand our ground," he said.
Do you agree? Obviously none of us would want Ferguson in our suburb. But what is to be done with him? What do you think?