Toughen child killers’ penalties
Call for tough new laws
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.