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World - Facing Dennis Ferguson
LIZ JACKSON, REPORTER: On February the 25th back in 1958, the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald featured this sweet photo. The Queen Mother speaking to a 10 year old boy from the Wahroonga School for the Blind. He is presenting her with a posy.Fifty years later that boy has become Australia’s most notorious paedophile. His friends are few. When he walks the Sydney streets he leaves on his full face helmet. Few criminal faces would be more easily recognised and no name is more widely reviled.His last conviction for child abuse was a heinous offence - the protracted sexual abuse of two boys and a girl, aged six, seven and eight. The offence was committed 22 years ago.The offender’s name is Dennis Ferguson.
LIZ JACKSON (To Dennis Ferguson): For the people who watch this and don’t know you, how would you introduce yourself?DENNIS FERGUSON: Okay I'm ah, I'm a person that's had a rough childhood. Um I've been through, I've been in and out of prison for numerous issues. I'm 61 years of age, I'm going on 62. I have very little sight left. I've had enough of, of nasty crimes, nasty associations. I just want to be left alone.LIZ JACKSON: Two months ago Dennis Ferguson moved to this public housing unit in Ryde, a typical residential suburb of Sydney. Within days the media that have followed him for the past six years were back on the case.(Excerpt of TV footage - reporter knocking at Ferguson’s door)REPORTER: Excuse me Dennis.REPORTER 2: Excuse me, can we ask you a question? Have you heard about Dennis Ferguson?RESIDENT: I really don’t know much about it.REPORTER 2: Have you seen him yet?SCHOOL CROSSING GUARD: No, I just like, shocked.REPORTER 2: You gotta look after the kids here, do you feel extra wary now and keep an eye out for him?SCHOOL CROSSING GUARD: Yeah, it's scary, very scary, yeah.REPORTER 2: Excellent.(End of Excerpt)(Excerpt of footage of rally by local Ryde residents)Sean Killgallon at Ryde rally 17 SeptLIZ JACKSON: By the end of the week the local residents had rallied.SEAN KILLGALLON, LOCAL RESIDENT: He’s got free range of anywhere, he does not have an anklet, he needs to be monitored every second of his life.(Applause)FEMALE RESIDENT: And I don’t know where we can put him, but we don’t want him here.(End of Excerpt)LIZ JACKSON: Within days Dennis Ferguson was back on the road again. The New South Wales Government passed a law to evict him. But where realistically can he safely go?The Dennis Ferguson saga raises important and uncomfortable questions about how we should treat child sex offenders when they return to the community. Australia-wide, it happens every week.JUDY SPENCE, QLD MINISTER FOR POLICE AND CORRECTIONAL SERVICES 2004-09: Dennis is not alone, there are other people with very serious history of offending who have been released from prison who are living in our community and it's always been the case. This is not a new phenomena.LIZ JACKSON: Tonight on Four Corners, Dennis Ferguson pleads that he has changed - but who will believe him? He’s a man who has told many lies in his long career in crime.LIZ JACKSON (To Dennis Ferguson): Do you think people who are sexually attracted to children ever lose those feelings?DENNIS FERGUSON: I guess over time, yes they would.LIZ JACKSON: And what about yourself?DENNIS FERGUSON: Myself? Children don't bother me. I'm no longer interested.LIZ JACKSON: Do you think people can learn to control those feelings?DENNIS FERGUSON: Yes.LIZ JACKSON: Do you think part of that is acknowledging they have a problem?DENNIS FERGUSON: Yes.LIZ JACKSON: And do you acknowledge that you have a problem?DENNIS FERGUSON: I had a problem, which is passed.HETTY JOHNSON, CHILD PROTECTION CAMPAIGNER, BRAVEHEARTS: He can't sit there and tell you I will never offend again anymore than I can or a psychologist can. The truth is, we don't know.LIZ JACKSON: But given that you don't know is it fair to say that you think he should be locked up forever?HETTY JOHNSON: Yeah I do. I do.(On Screen Text: Facing Dennis Ferguson, reporter: Liz Jackson)LIZ JACKSON: There is no way to comprehend, let alone excuse, the crimes that were committed at a motel on Racecourse Road in the Brisbane suburb of Ascot.The bare facts are these. It was July 1987.LIZ JACKSON (to Dennis Ferguson): In 1987 you and another man who also had previous convictions for child abuse offences, took three young children from New South Wales up to Brisbane and you've been found guilty, both of you, of sexually molesting those children. You and Mr Brookes were found guilty of offences of carnal knowledge of children eight and under, sodomy and sexual interference.DENNIS FERGUSON: That was, that was 22 years ago. Who lives in the past?LIZ JACKSON: But you accept.DENNIS FERGUSON: I accept it, I accept...LIZ JACKSON: That, that...DENNIS FERGUSON: I accept the past...LIZ JACKSON: You accept...DENNIS FERGUSON: But why should I have to live in the past? Why should it, why, why should my past be part of the rest of my life?LIZ JACKSON: The children were known to Ferguson and his co-accused, Alex Brookes. Their mother had entrusted them briefly to his care. But the two men took them and held them for two days.The police were called to the motel on the second night at around 11pm. They were directed up the stairs, to room 16.LIZ JACKSON (To Dennis Ferguson): When the police came to the door at the motel room, you were naked and the girl was naked?DENNIS FERGUSON: I did not know the girl was naked. I did not know. I was about to get in the shower. In fact I was getting ready to get in the shower when there was a knock at the door and I thought it was Alex. I came out to unlock the door and next thing I know I've got seven police officers in there.LIZ JACKSON: Do you agree that someone heard a child screaming?DENNIS FERGUSON: I agree somebody heard a child screaming.LIZ JACKSON: What can you tell us about that?DENNIS FERGUSON: That's all I can tell you.LIZ JACKSON: You've never expressed remorse for what happened to those children?DENNIS FERGUSON: I'll tell you what...LIZ JACKSON: Are you going to express remorse for us here now?DENNIS FERGUSON: I'm, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm really sorry I went out of my way to help the family. I'm really sorry what happened, I really am. I'm really sorry that I got accused, right, and convicted, right, of doing things with those children which at that point in time I did not do, but if it satisfies everyone I'll plead guilty to something I didn't do, just to be left alone.LIZ JACKSON: But it seems to me that five minutes ago you said to me that you did accept that you did that and I'm now asking you, are you, are you prepared to express any remorse for what you did?DENNIS FERGUSON: Oh look I'm, I'm sorry...LIZ JACKSON: And you're now telling me you didn't do it after all?DENNIS FERGUSON: I'm, I'm sorry I got involved with anyone. Yes I am sorry I got found with them in a motel room.LIZ JACKSON: But that's just sorry for yourself?DENNIS FERGUSON: I'm sorry for them too.LIZ JACKSON: Why? Because what happened to them?DENNIS FERGUSON: I'm sorry, I'm sorry that, I'm sorry that I let Alex, Alex have access to them, a mistake.LIZ JACKSON: You were found guilty of sexually abusing those children, are you sorry for that - for what you did?DENNIS FERGUSON: Yes, yes.LIZ JACKSON: Do you accept that you were guilty?DENNIS FERGUSON: Yes.LIZ JACKSON: Dr Stephen Smallbone is a forensic psychologist who worked many years in Queensland jails. It was there he met Dennis Ferguson in the 1990s.Dr Smallbone says it’s rare for sex offenders to make a full admission of guilt, and Ferguson was in total denial.STEPHEN SMALLBONE, FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGIST: In some ways it's very typical, but perhaps the, the kind of extent to which he may have gone to categorically deny his involvement, in the face as I understand it of quite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, is probably an unusual feature.LIZ JACKSON: And what is that in terms of an indicator of preparedness to commit the same offence again?STEPHEN SMALLBONE: Well it's a very interesting question. There's been an assumption for a very long time in the professional community that this would indicate significant increased risk. The research that's been devoted to that question in fact tells us that denial probably isn't a significant predictor of reoffending.LIZ JACKSON: At the end of the trial Justice Derrington sentenced Dennis Ferguson to 14 years in jail - the upper end of the scale. It was, the judge said, “a very bad case”.LIZ JACKSON (To Dennis Ferguson): The judge said that you had found out from their father, while you were in jail with him of the fact that they were already sexually abused children and that you took advantage of that...DENNIS FERGUSON: No I did not.LIZ JACKSON: In a cunning and contrived way?DENNIS FERGUSON: No I did not.LIZ JACKSON: The judge also noted Dennis Ferguson had a long list of previous offences. He appeared in the Yasmar Children’s Court, aged 15. He was deemed a neglected child, and briefly taken into care. At the age of 20 he was charged with offensive behaviour - removing pants from a model in a store.Most of the multiple convictions that followed over the years relate to fraud and theft. And disturbingly he had also already been jailed for both indecent assault and indecent dealings with children.DENNIS FERGUSON: Mistakes yes.LIZ JACKSON: A number?DENNIS FERGUSON: What I'm saying is this, why the past? The more you hash it up, the longer it continues and people just can't get on with their life.LIZ JACKSON: I tell you why it worries people. It looks like a pattern.DENNIS FERGUSON: No. It looks like a pattern because people want to continue to bring up the past.LIZ JACKSON: Dennis Ferguson served every single day of his 14 year sentence. There was no early release on parole for cooperative behaviour. He was, as is common with child sex offenders, intensely disliked and bashed by other prisoners.He refused to do the sex offenders’ programs, which in any event excluded prisoners like him who denied their guilt.DENNIS FERGUSON: In order to do the program one had to admit guilt.STEPHEN SMALLBONE: Many of the programs including in Queensland are still I think, still will not accept offenders when they present with complete denial. So if an offender says, no, I never did this, there's, there's little that the programs will do for those people.LIZ JACKSON: And should that be different?STEPHEN SMALLBONE: There's some research in Canada that shows that engaging with sex offenders who present with complete denial can themselves be effective. But that requires additional resources and it's very skilled work. It requires people with significant expertise, and they're hard to recruit into the prison systems in Australia.LIZ JACKSON: In January 2003 the 14 years were up, Dennis Ferguson had done his time. But in a late panic, authorities realised that once he was out, he was out of their control, he could slip under their radar.Literally the day before Ferguson was freed, the DPP (Department of Public Prosecutions) successfully applied for a Supreme Court order that Ferguson must report his address to police every time he moved for the next 15 years.The DPP provided affidavits from his fellow prisoners which included statements like “All Ferguson wanted to talk about is kids, and what he wanted to do to them.”The pressure was on for a change of the law.(Excerpt of News footage, 8 January 2003)FEMALE REPORTER: Child protection groups and the State Opposition say today’s court action is too little, too late and say the government should introduce new laws to give courts discretion to keep serial sex offenders in jail.HETTY JOHNSON: I mean all of a sudden we’re panicking, my God he’s released, what are we going to do now, what do we have to do to keep our kids safe now? We’re going do all these things, make him report, we’re going to make him do this - why are we releasing him?”MIKE HORAN, QLD POLITICIAN: This fellow is the Hannibal Lecter of the Queensland prison system.(End of Excerpt)LIZ JACKSON: On the 9th January 2003, Dennis Ferguson walked out of jail. The last minute Supreme Court drama intensified the interest in this now notorious man. A media pack was waiting.TERRY O’GORMAN, AUSTRALIAN COUNCIL FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES: This was a man who'd been in jail for 14 years with no media experience, just walked out the front gate and the corrective services people in effect said to the media, there he is. Go for it, like a pack of dogs, and they did.(Excerpt of footage of Dennis Ferguson leaving jail)REPORTRE: You say you’re not guilty?DENNIS FERGUSON: What do I say to my f***en victims? Nothing because there was nothing ever took place, you pack of bastards wanna line up, I’ll show you f***en evidence.REPORTER 2: Mr Ferguson the community does not feel safe with you on the streets.DENNIS FERGUSON: I don’t give a f*** what the community feels, I have done my time and what’s your name by the way?REPORTER 3: Are you a threat to the community?DENNIS FERGUSON: No I'm not.REPORTER 4: Are you guilty of these crimes?DENNIS FERGUSON: No I'm not.REPORTER 4: Have you ever had sex with a child?DENNIS FERGUSON: No.REPORTER 5: Dennis, what are your plans now?DENNIS FERGUSON: My plans are for you pack of bastards to leave me alone for at least 10 days.REPORTER 6: Mr Ferguson, are you a predatory paedophile then, that you've been accused of being?DENNIS FERGUSON: No.REPORTER 7: How can you stand there and say that?REPORTER 8: Sir are you saying that after all these years that you are innocent?DENNIS FERGUSON: I maintain my innocence.REPORTER 8: And the community has nothing to fear?DENNIS FERGUSON: The community has nothing to fear.REPORTER 9: Are you a sex monster or not, answer the allegation?REPORTER 10: Are you a sexual predator?(End of Excerpt)LIZ JACKSON: Almost five months to the day after Dennis Ferguson was released a new law came into force in Queensland. It was the first of its kind in the country.It allows a court to order sex offenders back to jail after their release date, even though no further crime has been committed. It’s called the Dangerous Prisoners Sexual Offenders Act.LIZ JACKSON (To Judy Spence): What was the connection between passing the Dangerous Prisoners Sexual Offenders Act and Dennis Ferguson?JUDY SPENCE: Oh certainly the release of Dennis Ferguson and other, some other high profile prisoners in 2002/03, led the Government to consider going down this path, so he was one of the people responsible for the framing of this legislation but of course he was released from prison before the legislation and then he's not captured under it.LIZ JACKSON (to Patrick Keyzer): What at its simplest is the concern about the piece of legislation?PATRICK KEYZER, BOND UNIVERSITY: The legislation inflicts double punishment.LIZ JACKSON: Patrick Keyzer is the Professor of Law at Bond University in Queensland. He was part of a legal team that challenged the legislation all the way to the High Court, and lost.Under the new law sex offenders assessed as high risk by two psychiatrists can be made subject to strict supervision orders after their release or kept in jail for further indefinite detention.PATRICK KEYZER: You've had a judge who's made an assessment of the gravity of an offence. They've developed what they regard as being a proportionate punishment and then a second and further punishing act is, takes place at the end of that process, even though the person hasn't committed a fresh crime. They haven't been convicted in a criminal trial, so it it's a radical change for the criminal justice system, a radical change.LIZ JACKSON: Forensic psychologists have concerns as well.STEPHEN SMALLBONE: This was to be reserved for only the most serious offences. And within a few years we have more than 100 people already subjected to this legislation. That's I think a very clear illustration that the introducing laws like this will inevitably lead to an over-inclusion.So for every 100 people say who are subjected to this legislation, it's probably only true that 10 or 20 or maybe 30 will really require it in order to not reoffend.LIZ JACKSON: Is that because the psychologists tests are unreliable, or also because they like their political masters are risk averse?STEPHEN SMALLBONE: Both.JUDY SPENCE: The people that we're keeping in jail after they've finished their sentences are people who generally have refused to participate in sex offender rehabilitation courses in prison, so they still deny their offence and they haven't been rehabilitated in prison at all. And often after we keep them in prison then they decide to, it may be a good idea to start doing one of these courses.LIZ JACKSON: Dr Jeremy O’Dea is a leading psychiatrist who does sex offender risk assessments for the New South Wales Supreme Court. New South Wales has adopted legislation closely modelled on the Queensland law.His concern about holding people in prison to make them have treatment, is whether the treatment works.DR JEREMY O’DEA, FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGIST: There's no good evidence that psychological treatment programmes alone in prison significantly reduces recidivism rates for sex offenders.LIZ JACKSON: Well what's the point of putting them on? What's the point of having them?DR JEREMY O’DEA: Well that's a good question. And I guess the issue is that particularly what's the point of mandating them if in fact they're not, they've yet to be clearly shown to do what we're all aiming at, which is reduce recidivism for sex offenders when they're released in the community.LIZ JACKSON: This was the Brisbane suburb, this was the weatherboard house that Dennis Ferguson found to live in, after leaving jail in 2003. He was sharing with another sex offender whom he had met inside.It was never going to be easy, and the media found him fast.(Excerpt of TV footage)REPORTER: This is Dennis Ferguson’s new home. Some of the neighbours are terrified at the notorious paedophile’s presence. Shane Kay has five young children.SHANE KAY, RESIDENT: You’ve got your eye on ‘em 24 hours a day now - last night I hardly slept.REPORTER: Then late this morning Ferguson and three others left.(End of Excerpt)LIZ JACKSON: Four months later Dennis Ferguson turned up in New South Wales. He’d been hoping for a lower profile. But within months he was back in prison, and here he’s being released after 15 months inside.(Excerpt of footage of Dennis Ferguson being released)(End of Excerpt)Under New South Wales laws he was obliged to tell police not only where he lived, but also what his job was - and he didn’t. Police had him under surveillance when his undisclosed sales job took him to a Sydney primary school, and they breached him.DENNIS FERGUSON: I should've told them that I was going to drop a product catalogue at the Parramatta public school, but I totally forgot and I admit I made that mistake, that's a mistake I made.LIZ JACKSON: Because you accept that the police and people want to know if you're going to be near children?DENNIS FERGUSON: Oh look I accept the fact.LIZ JACKSON: And you got 15 months in jail?DENNIS FERGUSON: I got 15 months in jail.LIZ JACKSON: Do you think that's appropriate?DENNIS FERGUSON: I think it was a bit stiff.LIZ JACKSON: What happened when you came out?DENNIS FERGUSON: Met by the media the day I came out of the jail.LIZ JACKSON: Dennis Ferguson was driven from the jail to the station to catch a train back to Queensland.(Excerpt of footage of Dennis Ferguson being driven to the train station)REPORTER: Where you gonna spend your first day Dennis, where ya going to spend your first day mate? Where you heading off to? Do you think you’re a danger to children?DENNIS FERGUSON: Go away.(Dennis Ferguson barges the reporter)REPORTER: Do you wanna be up for assault as well?REPORTER 2: Were you ever a danger to children Dennis?REPORTER 3: Do you still think you are you a danger to children?POLICE OFFICER: This is public property.DENNIS FERGUSON: You gonna let 'em harass me all day?REPORTER 2: Have you got a job to go to Dennis?POLICE OFFICER: Just come over here.REPORTER 2: What state are you gonna live in mate?REPORTER 3: Dennis, you still think you’re a danger to children? Where you heading off to mate?(End of Excerpt)(Excerpt of footage of people holding up signs and shouting "Out you go")LIZ JACKSON: When Dennis Ferguson arrived back in Queensland, he was found and hounded from house to house, town to town. A few days here, a few days there. This is the country town of Murgon, January 2005.RESIDENT: We’ve all got here kids here.RESIDENT 2: We’ve seen you mate.LIZ JACKSON: The police are moving Ferguson out.RESIDENT 3: You bloody leave you piece of shit.RESIDENT 4: Show your face you dog.(End of Excerpt)(Excerpt of footage of Ipswich residents outside house)LIZ JACKSON: The next day it’s Ipswich, just west of Brisbane.RESIDENT: You can bet he’s hiding in there behind the window.RESIDENT 2: Leave maggot, go home rock spider.LIZ JACKSON: That night he hid in a car, outside the police station. He was found there too.RESIDENT: Ferguson, where are you going to go and live now?RESIDENT 2: The coppers were really helpful, weren’t they?LIZ JACKSON: After dark back at his home.RESIDENT 3: No sleep tonight, Mr Ferguson.(End of Excerpt)LIZ JACKSON: Ferguson finally found temporary anonymity near the small town of Miles, four hours’ drive north west of Brisbane. He and a man named Allen Guy lived quietly there for about nine months.Dennis Ferguson had met Allen Guy in prison. Guy was jailed for multiple offences of indecent dealings with children. Ferguson says Queensland police were well aware they were living together.DENNIS FERGUSON: Bear this in mind, I stayed with Allen Guy at the request of Queensland police. They were the ones that asked him if it was okay for me to stay at his place.LIZ JACKSON: Queensland Police confirmed to Four Corners that “Yes, police were aware that Dennis Ferguson and Allen Guy were residing together...” But they “made no suggestion” that this should happen.“Mr Ferguson,” they said “chose to reside with Allen Guy”, and “there was no legislation” to stop this.DENNIS FERGUSON: There were no real problems up until ah...LIZ JACKSON: You were arrested in November 2005?DENNIS FERGUSON: I was arrested in November 2005, accused of an offence I did not commit.LIZ JACKSON: In the early hours of the morning, November the 10th 2005, police drove to this apartment block in Brisbane and arrested Dennis Ferguson.A complaint had been made that he’d indecently touched a girl aged five in the country town of Dalby the morning before. He’d been visiting the girl’s mother whom he’d recently befriended. He’d driven there from Miles with his housemate Allen Guy.DENNIS FERGUSON: Allen Guy, you want the full story, I'll give you...LIZ JACKSON: No I don't need the full story...DENNIS FERGUSON: No, no I'll give you...LIZ JACKSON: Just did you live, did you subsequently go and live with Allen Guy because...DENNIS FERGUSON: I will give you the full story involving Allen Guy.LIZ JACKSON: When Dennis Ferguson finally went to court he was unusually tried by a judge sitting alone. It was accepted that the media coverage could prejudice a jury’s judgement. Ferguson was found not guilty.The judge concluded that "there was an indecent touching of the child" by Ferguson or Guy but “it was probably Allen Guy”.LIZ JACKSON (to Dennis Ferguson): Do you just want to tell me why you would go to somebody's house when they had a four year old child, a girl child and another her sister, a five year old girl, with someone that you knew had sexual offences in relation to children, as you yourself did, and be in their living room and have the children or one of the children sit on his lap and have stories read to them. Why would you go there with somebody like that?DENNIS FERGUSON: I have...LIZ JACKSON: You put yourself and him...DENNIS FERGUSON: As I said, as I said, hang on right...LIZ JACKSON: And the children in that situation?DENNIS FERGUSON: I have no sight in my left eye. I do not have a driver's licence. Allen was doing my driving for me. The mother at that point in time was doing some work for companies that I was associated with. Allen was doing the driving.(Excerpt of footage of Wendell Rosevear speaking on the phone)LIZ JACKSON: Dr Wendell Rosevear is a GP in Brisbane, who specialises in counselling sex abuse offenders and victims. He’s seen Dennis Ferguson off and on for the past six years and is on the phone to him now. He takes the view that while society reviles Dennis Ferguson it will only make him worse, push him towards further offending.(End of Excerpt)LIZ JACKSON (to Wendell Rosevear): Does it bother you that in the period of time that you’ve worked with Dennis Ferguson that he’s sought out and lived with men who've also committed sexual abuse against children?DR WENDELL ROSEVEAR: Yes, I do feel sad about that and I have concerns about that, but we also need to realise that if people can't have safe places to live with people who are healthy friends and people who they're accountable to we push them into what, almost like a ghetto survival mechanism where there's nowhere for them to live but with people that they might have met in prison.And so if we're not proactive in helping them find safe accommodation with people that would have a healthy influence on him then he'll for survival reasons will be pushed into having, living with people who may not have a healthy influence on him.LIZ JACKSON: Dennis Ferguson spent over two years waiting in jail for the trial that would finally clear him of the indecent touching charge. For the last nine months he was released back into the community as legal arguments raged as to whether he could ever get a fair trial.The problem for the Government was finding somewhere to secrete him while that was happening. They thought they’d succeeded with Carbrook, 40 kilometres south of Brisbane.JUDY SPENCE: So we found this house in Carbrook that I think was on an acre or two of land. It was quite isolated from nearby houses. It wasn't near a school or a childcare centre. We also engaged the prison chaplaincy to look after him. We paid them to provide him with some assistance to help him settle into the community.We had the police alerted so that they could watch his movements and of course corrections officers would also be watching him. And we thought that it was going to be a good solution and obviously the people of Carbrook didn't.HETTY JOHNSON: I got a phone call from a person who lived in the area, she'd been notified by police that an offender was moving into her area. She didn't know who. We kind of guessed it was Dennis because he was, it was all about Dennis Ferguson at the time and she was scared because she's got kids.The house was very close to hers, she was concerned about viewing, his ability to view her children playing in the backyard etcetera, valid concerns. So I just said look let's just not panic, why don't you get your neighbours, I'll come over, I'll bring Carol with me, my criminologist who works with Bravehearts and we'll talk, we'll talk you through what you know what you should and shouldn't be doing and why he isn't really a problem for you if you just stay away from him etcetera and from then it escalated and it became this massive meeting.(Excerpt of footage of public meeting, July 2008)JUDY SPENCE: This is a man who if we don’t provide accommodation...RESIDENT: Get this man out of our town.JUDY SPENCE: ...Whether you like it or not Dennis Ferguson has been allowed to be a free man by the courts and that is the situation.(End of Excerpt)JUDY SPENCE: It really drove home to me the how little people generally think about these issues or understand these issues. There were many people there who just, you know, didn't want to listen to any sort of reasonable explanations. They just came there with one point of view and that's get Denis out and that was that was all they were there for.LIZ JACKSON: Ten days after they’d shouted at the Minister, Ferguson was moved out, two weeks after he moved in.Prison Fellowship was the church group paid to live with Dennis Ferguson 24/7 while he was in Carbrook. It’s a Christian charity that works with offenders and their families.JAN DAVIS, PRISON FELLOWSHIP, QUEENSLAND: He couldn't go out to get his own food, because there were people outside hassling him all the time. So he was sort of a prisoner in the house, so he needed support from people to get food and whatever was needed.DAVID WAY, PRISON FELLOWSHIP, QUEENSLAND: Furniture, bedding.LIZ JACKSON: Were you aware of his reputation when you agreed to support him?DAVID WAY: We were aware that he had been convicted of sex offences, yes.JAN DAVIS: Yep. I mean you don't condone anything that he's done, you don't condone any of their actions. But people can change and we just feel that Dennis has had a very unhappy life, and he's really deserving of a chance to turn around his life.DAVID WAY: And we knew that it was such an emotive issue that we kept our heads down and just did the job really.JUDY SPENCE: You know some of them when they were driving there to help him had their cars vandalised, they were abused by members of the general public so you know they were really brave people who took on that responsibility.LIZ JACKSON: As the housing options ran out for Dennis Ferguson the Government, the police, and a number of charities agreed to try a different tack. Instead of a remote location they put him in the heart of the CBD in Brisbane, near police headquarters. And for nine months it worked.DR WENDELL ROSEVEAR: Interestingly the centre of the city turned out to be the safest place for him. I guess there's a level of people busyness and anonymity in the city and also because the court suppressed his address there wasn't the continual hounding from the media.JUDY SPENCE: He would walk down the street regularly. He's not one to stay at home, particularly, so he would be wandering round the streets and I think by that stage people were no longer so alarmed by him.LIZ JACKSON: But the expense was unsustainable of keeping him in that sort of accommodation I understand?JUDY SPENCE: He was being supported by a charity group in that accommodation, not by the government.LIZ JACKSON: That charity group prefers to keep its profile low. Few agencies want it known that they supported Dennis Ferguson, especially financially.Many staff did not even want their own families to know, homeless, unemployed and blind, Ferguson was a needy man, but his name is poison.TERRY O’GORMAN: That's a bit sad, isn't it, in that what is wrong with a particular church group or someone else admitting that they've given some assistance ah to Dennis Ferguson? If we're supposed to be a society that lives by Christian values, it's pretty odd isn't it that people who have in fact assisted him are so concerned about publically acknowledging that.LIZ JACKSON: In April this year Dennis Ferguson was finally cleared of the indecent touching charge. He was free to leave Queensland, and went to New South Wales.JUDY SPENCE: I think everyone in Queensland is very happy that he'd left our state, you know the police particularly cause they didn't and corrections officers who were looking out for him, they were pleased that he became someone else's responsibility.LIZ JACKSON: And what did you think as you saw the problems unravel?JUDY SPENCE: Oh I've been watching the New South Wales experiences very similar to the Queensland experience, I mean we really do need to start talking to the community more about these issues and explaining that Dennis is not alone.HETTY JOHNSON: We have to understand that there's all different kinds of offenders. Dennis Ferguson is an offender that will only offend against children that he has come to know and that's generally because their parent or parents have allowed that to happen, so really unless you befriend Dennis Ferguson or your children do, historically anyway, you've got nothing really to be worried about.DENNIS FERGUSON: It's a proven fact that I have never ever touched a child that I did not know.LIZ JACKSON: Within two weeks of Ferguson being discreetly moved into the Sydney suburb of Ryde there was a banner outside his block of units and a coffin delivered to his front door.(Excerpt of footage of Dennis Ferguson's house in Ryde, man delivering pine coffin to his front door)SEAN KILGALLON: Dennis Ferguson, apparently you’ll only leave in a pine box. Well we’re a very caring community and I made you one. I’m ready for you to get in it.(End of Excerpt)LIZ JACKSON: But Ferguson had an old prison activist as his New South Wales mentor encouraging him to stay.BRETT COLLINS, COORDINATOR, JUSTICE ACTION: Oh we thought it was essential that he should stay where he was. I mean he'd run enough. Here was finally was his home. He'd worked for it, others had as well, we thought he should stay.DENNIS FERGUSON: I met the criteria to receive that accommodation. I'd gone through everything that was required of me by the chronic needs coordination group.LIZ JACKSON: Within the Housing Department?DENNIS FERGUSON: Yes within the Housing Department.LIZ JACKSON: And Housing New South Wales were fully aware of your past criminal record?DENNIS FERGUSON: To my knowledge yes.LIZ JACKSON: For the first time in his life, Dennis Ferguson was given a five year lease. These Ryde residents could not believe it(Excerpt of footage of Ryde Rally, 17th September)RESIDENT: The person that signed the lease needs to get the sack, that person should be fired. The person above and the person above that, right to the top.LIZ JACKSON: The prevailing mood was overwhelming.RESIDENT 2: He’s a criminal you know, he’s done bad things, so I just think, protect our kids.LIZ JACKSON: What do you say to people who say well he’s done his time?RESIDENT 2: Done his time? You know, it’s always there. Paedophiles have always got that thing inside of them, to do these crimes, and it’s always going to be there, why should we put our kids at risk for it?(End of Excerpt)LIZ JACKSON (to Stephen Smallbone): A number of people in Ryde said to us, once a paedophile, always a paedophile.STEPHEN SMALLBONE: It seems to be a very popular view, and I've heard that view put by senior politicians, I've heard it put by senior police, I've heard it put by professionals. The research evidence very clearly suggests that this is not true. That that sex offenders against children, the best estimates, and these are international estimates, are that about 15 per cent of child sex offenders will reoffend within the next four to five years. And about 24 or 25 per cent would reoffend within about 15 years.LIZ JACKSON: Within a week of the rally in Ryde the New South Wales Premier Nathan Rees called a press conference to announce new legislation.(Excerpt of footage from press conference, 23rd September)NATHAN REES, NSW PREMIER: Good morning people, I’m joined today by Minister for Housing David Borger and Commissioner Scipione. Last week I ordered officials to look at the unprecedented and difficult circumstances surrounding the accommodation of Dennis Ferguson. The community at Ryde had told us the situation was untenable and I agreed. We will introduce a bill today that deals with extreme case like this.(End of Excerpt)LIZ JACKSON: Under the new law any registered child sex offender can be evicted from public housing if the Commissioner of Police forms the view that the offender or his neighbours safety is at risk. No reasons are given and there’s no right of appeal, although alternative accommodation has to be offered.The head of the Housing Department, briefed Dennis Ferguson the following day.(Excerpt of footage from 24th September)DENNIS FERGUSON (crying): He told me that it had gone through Parliament and through both Houses. If it's signed off today by the Governor, the Police Commissioner will issue an order that I vacate. They will then change the locks on the door to prevent me from getting back in.LIZ JACKSON: So when are they changing the locks?DENNIS FERGUSON: If the go ahead is given this afternoon, they'll do it this afternoon.LIZ JACKSON: And what's the alternative accommodation they'll be offering you?DENNIS FERGUSON: I really don't want alternative. I want to live there. I signed a five year lease.(End of Excerpt)LIZ JACKSON: The real worry for Dennis Ferguson is that this process could happen again and again, every time his new neighbours strongly object. The Minister for Housing concedes this.LIZ JACKSON (to David Borger): So if the new neighbours say we're afraid of Mr Ferguson and the Commissioner of Police takes the view that they are so afraid that Mr Ferguson's safety is also at risk, he'll be evicted again?DAVID BORGER, NSW HOUSING MINISTER: Obviously the law encompasses the potential for that to happen. I think the challenge now is to try and ensure that we make a better location decision for him, so that we reduce the risk. We can't ever completely eliminate the risk that there won't be a similar situation.LIZ JACKSON: It’s five weeks since Dennis Ferguson was evicted. Now he’s moving again to the next secret location, found by Housing New South Wales. The question is how long will it last, once his new address is revealed?Four Corners understands there are over 2,000 registered child sex offenders living unnoticed in the community in New South Wales. Many have committed crimes as serious as Ferguson’s, and more recent.Some are obliged as a condition of release to undergo chemical castration, or wear an electronic bracelet. But Dennis Ferguson’s conviction was too long ago for that. He’d have to agree.DENNIS FERGUSON: Chemical castration right is something that is not an easy thing to go into right. There are all sorts of issues that have to be canvassed...LIZ JACKSON: But were they canvassed and the psychologists agreed that this would assist you in dealing with your problem, you would accept it?DENNIS FERGUSON: I guess if I had to, yes.LIZ JACKSON: Would you accept an electronic bracelet?DENNIS FERGUSON: No, why should I?LIZ JACKSON: But would even this guarantee that Ferguson would not reoffend? The answer of course is no. This is true of every sex offender released from jail.The fact is we have failed to find a fair, decent and sensible way to address this unpalatable reality. But it’s an issue that won't go away.[End of transcript]