Warning - if you have an ounce of common sense in your head, the reports I cite in this post will make you angry.
First, from Australia, it's reported that a convicted pedophile, arrested on suspicion of a new offence, has been freed - because the judge reckoned that he couldn't be given a fair trial!
Attorney-General Kerry Shine will appeal a Brisbane court's decision to release a convicted pedophile because he could not receive a fair trial over the alleged sexual abuse of a five-year-old girl.
Judge Hugh Botting told Brisbane's District Court yesterday afternoon that Dennis Raymond Ferguson, 60, would have charges against him permanently stayed because of "adverse publicity".
. . .
Mr Shine last night said he had sought urgent advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions Tony Moynihan on the matter and would launch an appeal today.
He said he would seek further advice on whether the appeal could be fast-tracked but until then Ferguson would be free in the community.
"The reasons for this decision are a surprise to me," he said.
"In Queensland I believe that accused people do receive a fair trial."
Mr Shine said he did not know of any other cases that had been thrown out for similar reasons.
"I believe that Queensland juries properly directed by Queensland judges are quite capable of arriving at intelligent decisions on the evidence before them and only the evidence before them," he said.
. . .
Judge Botting said yesterday he didn't believe every member of a jury would be able to be "dispassionate" in considering Ferguson's case due to significant adverse publicity about his past convictions.
A third related charge was also thrown out.
"In my view the application for a stay should be granted," Judge Botting said.
"I have formed the view that the accused cannot receive a fair trial."
Judge Botting said the Crown case against Mr Ferguson was "tenuous" but even if he had been convicted, the time he had spent in custody since his arrest more than two-and-a-half-years ago would exceed any jail sentence ordered.
Ferguson has previously served time for child sex offences.
He was sentenced to 14 years' jail in 1988 for sexually abusing three children in a Brisbane hotel room.
He had been out of jail for about two years before he was arrested on the charges that were dismissed yesterday.
This judge is essentially saying that because the jury pool will have been exposed to the publicity surrounding the case, they can't be trusted to render a fair verdict. Therefore, the accused walks away scot-free. His victim has to live with the knowledge that he's got away with it (assuming, of course, that he's the guilty party), and from now on, child sex offenders in that jurisdiction have a precedent to cite in court when they contend that they won't receive a fair trial. Also, again assuming that he's the guilty party (and assumptions are all we have, thanks to that damnfool judge), the perpetrator is now free to offend again.
I'd like to propose to my Australian friends that if the alleged perpetrator does, indeed, commit another offense like this, Judge Botting should be made to serve precisely the same sentence as he receives when he's convicted. That might teach the Judge a little about the need to protect society, by letting the justice system take its course.
In the second case, in Sweden, a spiritualist organization formerly headed by a convicted pedophile is to hold its conference this year at the scene of his crimes.
Mervyn Johnson, the former head of the UK-based International Spiritualist Federation (ISF), was sentenced to five years in prison by a Karlstad court in early 2007 for sexually molesting several girls between 2001 and 2005 at various locations in Västerås, Örebro and Karlstad.
A professed faith healer from the UK who moved to Sweden in the late 1990s, Johnson lured his victims to various locations on the pretext of being able to heal their souls.
Instead the girls, one of whom was only 11 years old at the time, became the victims of rape and sexual abuse.
Despite Johnson’s conviction, the ISF has refrained from clearly taking a stand against its disgraced former leader.
“It’s sickening that this group won’t distance itself from a convicted pedophile,” Karlstad-based spiritualist and Johnson’s ex-wife Mia Ottosson told The Local.
Ottosson had been active in the ISF until allegations against her husband surfaced in late 2006 and she found herself frozen out by Johnson’s supporters within the ISF who accused her of trumping up charges against her ex-husband, whom many other spiritualists in Sweden revered.
“My husband at the time told me it was a worthy organization and I believed him. But those who lead it refuse to take responsibility and take a stand for what is right and wrong,” she said.
The ISF’s Executive Committee has so far neglected to revoke Johnson’s lifetime membership and plans are moving ahead to hold the ISF’s July 2009 Convention Week meeting at a conference centre in Sala, north of Västerås and just a short distance away from where the crimes took place.
“It’s frightening that this might happen,” said Kerstin Zaring from the crime victims support group (Brottsofferjouren) in Karlstad.
Zaring cared for some of Johnson’s victims and sat through his trial and believes that the crimes for which he was tried in Sweden are “just the tip of the iceberg”.
While not involved with the spiritualist movement, she was nonetheless shocked at the apparent power Johnson seemed to wield over the many women who testified in his defence even as he stood accused of raping young girls.
“He has lots of power and control over women,” she said.
“It’s terrifying to know that these women would support him in the trial. I was totally surprised.
Zaring added that she would “definitely” support efforts by those opposed to the ISF holding its meeting in Sweden.
But the ISF’s representative in Sweden, Ulla Alvarsdotter, does not see a problem with the group holding its conference in her home country.
“This is only controversial for some people,” she said.
“The fact that the conference is coming to Sweden has nothing to do with Mervyn’s case.”
However, Alvarsdotter also has a hard time articulating a clear stance regarding Johnson’s innocence or guilt.
“I’ve gone back and forth,” she said, adding that that she does not think Johnson is guilty of everything for which he was convicted.
“If what he did was true, it’s not acceptable…but I can’t say whether the accusations are true or not true because I wasn’t there. Only Mervyn and his accusers can know the truth.”
. . .
Eva Söderlund, a previous member of Johnson’s Karlstad-based spiritualist association, rejects any notion that the ISF meeting could be construed as a show of support for the victims.
“When we informed the ISF that Mervyn was in custody, the only response we got was a confirmation that they received the letter,” she said.
“They haven’t ever done anything for the girls. In their newsletter they often ask for people to send their healing powers to Mervyn but they don’t ever mention the girls.”
Again - unbelievable!
To have the gall to hold a major conference at the scene where their former leader abused girls who trusted him . . . just how blind can the International Spiritualist Federation be, for Heaven's sake?
Have they no sense of propriety whatsoever?
And as for asking its members to "send healing powers to Mervyn", but never mentioning his victims . . . the stomach turns.
I've had to work with pedophiles in prison, during my service as a chaplain. I won't say much more about them here, because I don't want to put you off any more than you probably are already: but believe me, in most cases, to call them 'scum' is an unpardonable insult to a perfectly good product of nature - algae - that doesn't deserve the comparison. There are exceptions, of course: but the majority of those I've known have been manipulative, self-centered to the point of obsession, callous, calculating, and utterly incorrigible. I know they're likely prospects to re-offend as soon as they're released.
These two cases just make my blood boil.
The real tragedy is, there are people right here in the USA who hold similar views. There are those who say that pedophiles can be rehabilitated, that they deserve our sympathy, that they should be given a second chance. There are even those who'd doubtless side with that Australian judge, and insist that pedophiles can't receive a fair trial because of the publicity surrounding their alleged offenses.
There are, indeed, some pedophiles who deserve a degree of sympathy - those who were themselves abused as children. However, that doesn't change the fact that they chose to act in this way. They didn't have to. They chose to.
I don't believe a pedophile can ever be cured. My own experience, and much conversation with prison psychologists and psychiatrists, all lead me to this conclusion. And that means they must be removed from society completely, and never allowed the opportunity to re-offend.