On Fardon: Time to put down pitchforks
WHEN it comes to Robert John Fardon, it may be finally time for us to check our hysteria at the barn door and hang up the pitchforks.
I've just read the 38-page judgment of Supreme Court Justice Helen Bowskill and invite you to do the same.
In doing so you'll see the entire justice apparatus at work, along with the checks and balances that exist in it, along with all of Justice Bowskill's considerations in denying the State's application for a further supervision order to be made for Fardon, who has been living in the community, incident free, for the past five years.
You will learn the detail and substance of contraventions of his past supervision orders, like in 2007 when Fardon was found to be in breach for "attending a school on a pre-arranged visit in the company of his support worker to address Year 11 students (about avoiding a life of crime)", aiding a neighbour who was also on a supervision order to use his car, and for travelling from where he was living to Townsville without authority "in circumstances where he was fearful of returning to his residence and particularly fearful of attack by vigilante groups".
As well, you'll learn that Fardon has not been convicted of any sexual offence for 30 years - that his last conviction, following his arrest in 2008 after a complaint of rape by a women with whom he was in a sexual relationship, was set aside and a verdict of acquittal entered.
You'll be able to read, in some detail, the opinions of a Prison Fellowship chaplain who provides Fardon with support, and those of three psychiatrists who are in agreement the risk of Fardon reoffending is low, with one saying "very low".
The same psychiatrist quoted by my colleague Peter Gleeson was quoted in Justice Bowskill's judgment as also saying, "In my opinion, the most relevant dynamic factors for reoffending have now substantially lessened. Instead, I think there is evidence of maturity in general, and affective settling, and perhaps some development of remorse and an improved tendency to take advice."
Another is quoted as saying while Fardon meets the criteria for a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder, with considerable psychopathic traits, it appears "his antisocial behaviours have mellowed with time." That psychiatrist is also quoted saying Fardon "would benefit from provision of stable safe accommodation and the ability to engage with his current community supports without any perceived persecution or intrusion by the media"
Of critical interest to the public are the psychiatrists' views that "there is no evidence … (Fardon) suffers from any sexual deviance or paraphilia, such as paedophilia … the medical evidence is clear and insofar as predictions of possible future offending are concerned, no one predicts offending against a child."
The judgment also discusses the "stressors" associated with Fardon no longer living under the strictures of a supervision order, which was "the primary basis on which the Attorney-General pressed for a further supervision order". The judgment says the two stressors identified as potentially "destabilising the present emotional equilibrium" were Fardon finding independent accommodation while dealing with media scrutiny and associated community vigilantism.
But, again, the psychiatric evidence did not support a conclusion this would create an "unacceptable risk" of a sexual re-offence.
Surely it stands to anyone's reason, never mind a learned Supreme Court Judge's, that Fardon - or almost anyone for that matter - cannot be subjected to endless restrictive orders purely on the basis there's an ill-informed mob with flaming torches roaming the streets. (Though, it's worth noting here, as the judgment says, that Fardon will, in any event, be subject to reporting obligations under the 2004 Child Protection (Offender Reporting and Offender Prohibition Order) Act so police will have his personal details and can apply for a prohibition order if there's any sign on "concerning conduct".)
Yes, as much as there is a heavy responsibility on the 70-year-old Fardon to never reoffend, we, as a community, should also behave responsibly, as should the media in its reporting of this case.
If we can't do that then isn't the dismal alternative that we should abandon once and for all the noble aim of correcting offenders with our justice and corrections systems?
It's not what I want. But before you answer that, please, read the judgment.