Toughen child killers’ penal­ties

Call for tough new laws

Daily Mercury - - NEWS - Me­lanie Petrinec

PAL­TRY sen­tences for child killers have prompted calls for tough new laws in a sim­i­lar mould to those used to com­bat one-punch at­tacks and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

Vic­tims’ fam­i­lies, ad­vo­cacy groups and le­gal ex­perts say it’s time to re­think leg­is­la­tion af­ter a spate of cases in which child killers were given short sen­tences, in­clud­ing this week when Matthew Scown was sen­tenced to just four years jail over the man­slaugh­ter of Tyrell Cobb, 4.

Sug­ges­tions in­clude low­er­ing the thresh­old to prove in­tent in the case of mur­der and in­tro­duc­ing a manda­tory jail term for per­pe­tra­tors against vic­tims un­der a cer­tain age.

Kerri-Ann Good­win, the mother of 18-month-old Hemi Good­win-Burke who died from in­juries in­flicted by his babysit­ter, backed the call for leg­isla­tive change af­ter a mur­der charge against the tod­dler’s killer was dropped and he re­ceived an eight-year jail term for man­slaugh­ter.

“We have talked with some of our lo­cal politi­cians about a law that pro­tects so­ci­ety’s most valu­able,” she told The Courier-Mail.

“We can also leg­is­late a def­i­ni­tion for the mur­der of a child.

“This could in­clude a guide of what is and what isn’t mur­der of a child and also give di­rec­tion to (the Of­fice of the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Prose­cu­tions) when prose­cut­ing and seek­ing sen­tences for these killers.”

The State Gov­ern­ment has re­ferred the is­sue, which is likely to fea­ture in the up­com­ing elec­tion, to the Queens­land Sen­tenc­ing Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil for re­view in a move widely backed by ad­vo­cates and le­gal ex­perts.

Crim­i­nol­o­gist Terry Goldswor­thy said there was a dis­con­nect be­tween pub­lic ex­pec­ta­tion and a spe­cific law should be in­tro­duced, sim­i­lar to those drafted in re­cent years to stop the scourge of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and sense­less one-punch deaths.

“They could look at, in the case of chil­dren un­der a cer­tain age, that the re­quire­ments to prove mur­der are dif­fer­ent,” he said.

“We need to have a re­visit, and if there’s prob­lems in these mat­ters per­haps we need a higher thresh­old or we need to lower the thresh­old (of ev­i­dence) to recog­nise these vic­tims as ex­tremely vul­ner­a­ble.”

He said cases in­volv­ing chil­dren were run­ning into the same is­sue faced be­fore the un­law­ful strik­ing caus­ing death charge was in­tro­duced, with of­fend­ers suc­cess­fully ar­gu­ing lack of in­tent.

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