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A Place for Dennis: housing child sex offenders in the community 2010-110.1

2 July 2010



In July 2008, notorious paedophile Dennis Ferguson was unexpectedly released from prison in Queensland. Ferguson was a repeat offender released just before the Dangerous Prisoners Sexual Offenders Act was passed, permitting judges to order sex offenders back to jail after release, even though no further crime had been committed. When news leaked that he was living in a small, inland country town its residents assembled to demand his expulsion. A relocation to Brisbane with arranged supervision ended in similar scenes. After a nine-month stay at an inner-city apartment he signed a lease for a public housing apartment in Ryde, New South Wales, but within two weeks of his arrival, outraged neighbours were rallying outside his home. The NSW Minister of Housing, David Borger, was under great pressure to act. On the one hand, vigilante justice was likely to end in violence and unlikely to quell any time soon, but on the other hand there were arguments that isolating or reincarcerating offenders was an ineffective solution to a complex problem and undermined the justice system.

This case explores a complex, emotional policy area in which expert advice is challenged by public opinion. It presents various stakeholder perspectives on public safety and how that should best be achieved in relation to child sex offenders. It can be used to discuss justice policy and legislation, or more generally to discuss how public officials can enact, uphold or amend legislation in the face of intense public scrutiny.

Authors: Marinella Padula
Published Date: 2 July 2010
Author Institution: ANZSOG
Featured Content Length: 2
Content Length: 9
Product Type: One-part case, Primary resources