We need to have a talk about Dennis.

We need to have a talk about Dennis.

I was hesitant to post about this because I didn’t want it to seem like this blog was turning into one big paedophile defence, but, well… Australia, we need to have a chat. About Denis.

Denis Ferguson, possibly Australia’s most infamous paedophile, is also Australia’s least-wanted neighbour.

This man, who served 14 years in gaol for kidnapping and sexually assaulting three children in 1987, is the subject of a media circus that follows a depressing cycle: he moves in, the media search until they find him, the community is whipped (or whip themselves) into a frenzy of outrage, he moves into new accomodation…

The reality is that for better or for worse he has served his time, and no matter where he lives now there will always be children nearby.

While I understand the fear of the parents who live in his neighbourhood, their fear being understandable does not neccessarily make it, or their actions,  justifiable.

As such, the way the media encourage the escalation of the neighbourhood anger is disgraceful. Each time a “resident” (although who knows how close any of these people even live to the man) puts up a sign or does another stunt you can feel the glee as the assembled media pack encourage them in the way you would a performing child.

The actions of some – certainly not all – residents, be it placing signs on his house, delivering coffins to his door or throwing alleged petrol bombs onto his lawn, go too far and should be treated with the same negative reaction by media and police that they would be treated with if they were directed at any other “free” member of society.

This escaltion is only going to end badly – already there have been reports this morning that a man was stabbed outside Mr Ferguson’s house last night – if no-one acts to try and put out this fire rather than just standing by and letting it burn or even actively adding fuel to it.

To see how out-of-hand this paedophile vigilantism can get, we need only to remember the case from 2000 in which a UK paediatrician had her home vandalised  and her windows smashed by angry locals who reportedly “confused the words ‘paediatrician’and ‘paedophile’.”

About the Author

Amy is a Sydney-based journalist and commentator with an interest in politics, music, culture and evidence-based medicine. She is currently working as a medical journalist for a series of "Specialist Update" websites, and she has also been published in The Sydney Morning Herald, Crikey, New Matilda, and Vibewire's anthology "Interface". She was a panelist with the Sydney Writers' Festival in 2007 and 2008, organised the Sydney Writers' Festival event "erotic fan fiction" in 2009, and is a regular broadcaster on FBi radio.