The Today Show has a responsibility — having given this morning ample and sympathetic coverage to the lynch mob of Carbrook which is protesting against convicted s-x offender Dennis Ferguson being in their community — to remind viewers of some vital facts that could help to prevent the murder or at least infliction of a serious assault on Dennis Ferguson.

Mr Ferguson has had his trial on s-x abuse charges permanently stayed by a Queensland District Court judge Hugh Botting last week, because of an avalanche of highly prejudicial media and political coverage which has made it impossible for Mr Ferguson to get a fair trial. Now the Queensland government is providing Mr Ferguson with accommodation in an isolated house in Carbrook on the outskirts of Brisbane.

The vigilantes of Carbrook are out in force, even producing a hangman’s rope last night at a public meeting in which Queensland Police Minister Judy Spence gave new meaning to the phrase ‘entering the lion’s den.’

The views of Carbrook residents, given airplay this morning by the Today program, are simply, let’s not mince words here, ignorant and hysterical.

Why doesn’t the Today Show assist in seeking to eradicate the lynch mob mentality of Carbrook by laying facts, rather than emotion, on the table?

And what are these facts?

Well, for starters, the rate of re-offending by s-x offenders is low, between 5 to 14 percent — it is 50 percent in the case of property crimes. As one of the world’s leading researcher in this area, Karl Hanson from Public Safety Canada observes, “The observed rate of s-xual offenders’ recidivism is much lower than commonly believed.”

Dr Hanson’s comments are borne out by an exhaustive recent study conducted in Florida which showed that communities wrongly think s-x offender recidivism rates are about ten times higher than they are in reality.

Second, it is far more likely that child s-x abuse crimes will be perpetrated by a member of the victim’s family than by a stranger.

Thirdly, if a community or individual wants to increase the possibility that a s-x offender will re-offend, then destabilising their mental state will do the trick. The lynch mob of Carbrook is behaving in just such a way towards Mr Ferguson.

One hopes that the Channel 9 Today Show will tomorrow educate its viewers, rather than simply repeating what they did this morning, which was to expose the unseemly and distasteful conduct of some of the citizens of Carbrook last night.

It is time the media stopped egging on ignorance and prejudice.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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