Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Robert James Ferguson - Repeat Sex Offender - Bus Driver Sexual Groomer

A former bus driver sentenced yesterday to 26 months in prison for sexually grooming two 15-year-old boys he met on the buses passed a compulsory police check despite a string of sexual offence convictions.

Robert James Ferguson, 59, groomed the two boys when he was a driver for Red Bus in Christchurch between March 2006 and July 2007. He has six convictions for indecent exposure and convictions for indecent assaults on boys in 1991 and 1992.

Red Bus chief executive Paul McNoe said he was unaware of the previous convictions.

Ferguson passed a criminal record check conducted by police before any passenger licence was granted, he said.

McNoe said he was surprised Ferguson passed the police check when he had previous convictions.

"I am surprised he just got checked and was permitted to go back into serving the public. Someone in that background is not someone we would prefer, but it is not something we would be aware of," he said.

"He went through the check and was found to be OK according to the police at that time ... We rely on the police to do their work and rely on their system to advise us `yes' or `no'."

Red Bus was told by police in July last year when the new charges were made against Ferguson, meaning his passenger licence would be rescinded. His employment was immediately terminated.

A police national headquarters spokesman said Ferguson passed the criminal record check, known as a fit and proper person check, because his previous convictions were more than a decade old.

The Land Transport Act specifies a passenger licence can be granted if the offence is more than 10 years old.

Ferguson was convicted last month in the Christchurch District Court for the sexual grooming charges, but was acquitted of charges of sexual violation and indecent assault. The sentencing yesterday was the first for sexual grooming without a more serious sexual offence conviction.

Judge Jane Farish said the sexual grooming was a serious offence, reported Christchurch Court News.

"This was a serious breach of trust. You were a bus driver and the boys should have been safe in your care," she said.

"25% of all sex offenders re-offend within 15 years"
.........Sarah Tofte

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