Are child killers getting away with murder?
MORE children are killed in Queensland per capita than any other state in Australia - but those guilty of manslaughter of a child spend less time in jail than offenders who kill adults.
Over the past 12 years, 62 children from newborns to 17-year-olds were murdered in Queensland, the highest rate in the country, and children aged under one were most at risk.
In a sobering statistic, offenders sentenced for child manslaughter received 6.8 years jail time on average - almost two years less than the average for adult manslaughter.
The startling figures were released today as part of a review into sentencing of child homicide offenders by the Queensland Sentencing and Advisory Council.
Council member Dan Rogers said while child killers received the same penalty for murder as adult offenders, a mandatory life sentence, manslaughter cases involving children have historically received less jail time in Queensland.
"One possible explanation is that there are a lot more negligent manslaughter cases when it comes to children," Mr Rogers said.
Mr Rogers said manslaughter made up 60 per cent of child homicide cases and child killers were more likely to get manslaughter than offenders that killed adults.
"The problem is that murder requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that someone intended to kill or cause grievous bodily harm," he said.
"In these kinds of cases that intent is not always present, or it is difficult to prove because a majority of cases occur within homes."
Families of child homicide victims desperate to have their voice heard have reportedly flown themselves to Townsville yesterday to attend a Council summit on sentencing.
The parents of murdered toddler Hemi Goodwin Burke believe sentencing is too lenient and have put in a submission to the Council.
Shane Burke and Kerry Anne Goodwin's 18-month-old son was killed by his babysitter, Matthew James Ireland, in 2015.
Ireland was originally charged with murder and torture but the Supreme Court accepted a plea deal of manslaughter.
They would like to see a new offence added for child murder.
"Too many people are getting these deals and getting light sentences," Mr Burke said.
"Four years non-parole for beating a child until their death is not adequate. It's not good enough."
"There needs to be a new law brought in, it needs to be implemented to murder of a child because we've only got murder."
As part of the review, the public can make submissions that will inform the recommendations of the final report on sentencing, due in October.
"We recognise this is a topic of great public concern and we encourage people to tell us what they think by making a submission," Mr Rogers said.
Report findings on victims
- Children most at risk of homicide in their first year of life with 29 per cent of victims under one
- 66 per cent of child homicides occur in the home
- Most common cause of death for child homicide is striking (21 per cent)
Findings on offenders
- most likely to be family members
- the younger the victim, the more likely the offender is a parent
- unlikely to have a previous conviction for a violent offence
- 75.8 per cent of child homicide offenders were male
Findings on sentencing
- Child homicide offenders more likely than adult homicide offenders to be sentenced for manslaughter (59.7 per cent compared to 53.2 per cent)
- Average sentence for child manslaughter is 6.8 years, while the average sentence for adult manslaughter is 8.5 years
- Median child manslaughter sentence was 7.5 years, compared to 8 years for adult manslaughter
*All statistics provided by the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council