Delays may have cost babies their lives
THE parents of a Mackay toddler killed by his babysitter have welcomed tougher penalties for the manslaughter of children, but say changes should not have taken a year and potentially cost five babies their lives.
Kerri-Ann Goodwin and Shane Burke, whose 18-month-old son Hemi was killed in 2015, yesterday told The Courier-Mail the recommended introduction of an aggravated manslaughter offence for children was a "step in the right direction".
However, they felt "shocked, disappointed and kicked in the guts" by the decision to change strawberry tampering laws overnight, while their child's killer was jailed for less than five years and nothing was done.
"It sort of went against everything that (Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath) had told us, that she shouldn't just jump in and change laws," Mr Burke said. "It was a bit of a contradiction."
Hemi's killer Matthew James Ireland was initially charged with murder.
Despite evidence of Ireland bashing the baby, police accepted a plea deal and the charge was downgraded to manslaughter a year later. Ireland had admitted to drunkenly brutalising the two-year-old over a two-hour period, after being asked to babysit him.
Since the review of child homicide sentences was announced in October last year, at least five babies have been killed at the hands of an adult, including two cases this week.
"There's a lot of children who have been let down prior to this, where they could have implemented a change earlier than this. You only have to look at one case," Ms Goodwin said.
"Whereas we've had to sit here for another 12 months while more children are let down by the system."
Queensland Homicide Victims Support Group chief executive Brett Thompson said the Sentencing Advisory Council had found the right balance between upholding the law and the needs of grieving families.
"For some time we were told (by the legal fraternity) that we lacked education, that we had been mislead, that it was a myth, that everything was fine. Well, it's been shown through a very thorough process that in fact the situation is not adequate," he said.