Why I interviewed a convicted sex offender

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Last weekend Sixty Minutes attacked me for an interview I did last year with Nicolaas Bester, a Tasmanian teacher previously imprisoned for having a sexual relationship with one of his students. I conducted the interview not because I condone his past behaviour but because I am concerned about vigilante justice.

Many people are confronted and offended by the fact that Bester doesn’t appear remorseful about what he did and don’t understand why I would choose to interview such an unsympathetic character. In our interview he did fully acknowledge his guilt and agreed that the prison sentence was appropriate for such a serious offence involving a teenage girl. I strongly believe our society must protect young people from sexual abuse and punish perpetrators severely.

What was missing from the Sixty Minutes programme was the context – namely that this convicted sex offender has been systematically hounded by activists since he was released from prison and attempting to start a new life by studying for a PhD at Hobart University. There’s been a ferocious campaign to try to stop him finishing his studies – with groups camped outside his home, getting him banned from using university facilities and doing everything possible to publicly shame him. A Supreme Court Judge spoke out about what was happening to Bester, condemning the vigilantism as “regrettable” (see link below). It was this campaign that finally led Bester to speak out.

When someone kills a child is released from prison, we don’t see groups of activists hounding him or her and destroying any chance of a new life. Even with the most horrendous crimes, we rarely see the type of ongoing persecution of ex-prisoners that is reserved for people who commit sex crimes.

I regard it as unacceptable that so many people in the media and elsewhere encourage this mob rule, justifying their behaviour by alleging all sex offenders are likely to prey on other victims – but this is actually untrue. I will include below evidence about this which I posted with the original video.

I apologise to those I have offended by the relaxed tone of the interview, particularly in the segments of the interview shown by Sixty Minutes which were carefully selected to damage my reputation. I believe in redemption and find it difficult not to get along with people who are willing to have an honest conversation with me, even those who have made grave errors in their lives.

We removed Bester’s video from my YouTube channel after discovering the material we presented included a tiny image of the victim’s face which was taken from her own Facebook page. We were told this image was upsetting to the victim and it was illegal to show her connection with the case, even though her Facebook page was publicising the campaign against Bester.

Bester’s victim is now demanding Tasmanian law be changed so she can “fight back,” by openly telling her story. Naturally I believe she should be allowed to speak openly and notice she is currently challenging her silencing on her Facebook page.

Here’s information about the likelihood that sex offenders will be repeat offenders. First a relevant article from Scientific American: Once a sex offender, always a sex offender?: Maybe not.

And here is a submission by Australian expert forensic psychologists presented to a committee on child sexual abuse: Submission No 5 – Australian Psychological Society. Sex offenders actually have a low rate of recidivism overall although with pederasts there is a small group of repeat offenders – mainly involving male victims.