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Buried in the labyrinth

By Margaret Simons - posted Friday, 15 June 2007

July 13, 2005, the Victorian Government sent one of Australia's worst pedophiles to live in a house at 137 Kent Street, Flemington - just a few hundred metres from the home I shared with my husband and two children. Ever since, I have been trying to find out why.

I am not a vigilante. When it was at its height, when the journalists were massing around me on the steps of the court, I felt the pressure to assume a role. They needed me to be "Outraged of Flemington", but I felt not so much outraged as questing.

If someone from government had said at the outset: let's sit down and talk about this, let us explain, I would have gladly dropped the legal battle. Now I feel naïve for thinking that was ever likely to happen.


Instead, I have been knocking up against the courts, against my own profession of journalism and against the bureaucracy.

Brian Keith Jones, formerly known as Brendon John Megson, was first jailed in 1981 for abducting and sexually abusing six boys. He shaved their heads and dressed them in women's clothing, which is why the media began to call him Mr Baldy - a name that has stuck.

Before he was paroled in 1989, Jones made some tapes for pedophile friends outside who were awaiting his release. They were seized by the authorities. In them, Jones was planning his next offences: "I know what my idea would be, is getting a young ... woman who may have two little children or something like that, only real bubbies or something, and put her into slavery and make her watch as the children are brought up as our own."

Sure enough, when he was released, Jones carried out his plans. This time his victims were two brothers, aged six and nine. He went back to jail in 1993, sentenced to 14 years. With no parole, he was due for release in August 2005.

Aware of his impending release, the State Government had drafted a law designed to allow serious sexual offenders to be monitored following their release. The Serious Sex Offenders Monitoring Act was known in government as the Mr Baldy Bill, but although it seemed to be part of the solution, as 2005 rolled around it presented the bureaucrats with a problem.

If Jones was to be monitored long term, then this would have to be included in his parole conditions - and the date for his release, unmonitored and without parole - was in early August. By mid-2005, there was a race on to get Jones paroled subject to supervision, and to find him somewhere to live - before his sentence expired.


In March, it was reported that a house identified for Jones by Corrections Victoria had been rejected after an "environmental scan" detected two young boys living next door. A spokeswoman for the Corrections Commissioner said this proved the system was working. "We don't see it as a stuff-up at all, we see it as the opposite - the system working." The next thing anyone heard was in early July, when it was reported that Jones had been paroled and was about to be released.

Nobody wants a pedophile for a neighbour. Who knows how many of us have just that, without knowing and without any media fuss? I don't like moral panic, and I don't like hysteria, but there was a particular reason why this house, so close to my dear children, was spectacularly unsuitable. Every weekday morning, the walking bus for the primary school meets directly outside.

The walking bus is in itself a scheme born out of moral panic. Children are no longer allowed to walk to school alone because of all the fearsome things in the street - and yet they must walk, for fear that they will grow obese through too little exercise. Therefore, councils and schools setup walking buses, and parents volunteer to "drive" them on a roster system.

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This is an edited extract from Griffith REVIEW 16: Unintended Consequences (ABC Books).

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About the Author

Margaret Simons is a Melbourne-based journalist and author. Her new book The Content Makers - Understanding the Future of the Australian Media will be published by Penguin in September 2007.

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