Qld Justice System Fails Hemi Goodwin Burke
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*Hemi's Justice Group, supported by Jakob's Voice, require an immediate change in the way the prosecution system is failing our child victims and their families in the wake of violent acts against such innocent, vulnerable babies and children. Collectively in our groups, we have memberships of around 4,000 across our growing social media campaigns (approximately 1000 members - Hemi's Justice Group and approximately 3000 members - Jakob's Voice), we petition the Attorney General/ Minister for Justice in Qld and other ministers on behalf of our members as well as those signatures on this petition.
We are concerned over the growing list of children and grieving families who are not receiving justice in violent child deaths in Queensland. We need only remember the case of *Kyhesha-Lee Joughin which highlights such failings. Little Hemi's case is certainly not the only baby not to receive appropriate justice for his violent death however his case highlights many of the concerns the Australian public is becoming aware of and are unhappy about. These cases set a dangerous precedent that can potentially encourage those predators who are likely to commit atrocious crimes against children.
There is absolutely no consistency in sentencing for child killers in Queensland. The offender in 16 month old *Mason Parker's death was sentenced to life. The prosecution fought hard for justice for little Mason in Qld as should always be the case. This should be the precedent set for Child killers. A life sentence.
We are also concerned that many surviving child victims have not received justice as they have not died in the act that took the life of their sibling. If a child has been harmed (emotionally, sexually and/or physically) due to any child abuse the offender must be prosecuted. There is no excuse not to prosecute child abusers for each act of abuse whether a further charge is pending due to the death of another child. All abuse of children should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Additionally, no child should ever be worth so little that their offender is not brought to justice for the crimes against them. In Jakob Oakey's case (Jakob's Voice) no charges were ever brought about for sexual, physical and emotional abuse despite vast evidence of such abuse gathered by Qld Police, Hospital and Child Safety records. The onus was on him (a disabled minor) to press such charges against the offender. It should never be left up to the child to protect themselves or seek their own justice. Jakob is not the only child who has been completely denied justice when police have been aware of abuse occurring.
*Justice for Hemi https://www.facebook.com/groups/1657738271136660/
* Jakob's Voice https://www.facebook.com/groups/jakobsvoice/
Australian child victims and their families urgently require:
- That in cases where torture and pain has been inflicted on a child, particularly when the violence has been committed over a period of several minutes, hours or days that the offender is tried automatically on Murder charges rather than charges be downgraded to Manslaughter;
- That the prosecution seek the fullest extent of the law for such offenders;
- That when a manslaughter charge is appropriate for child deaths, the fullest extent of the law be applied during the offender's sentencing;
- That when another child has been abused but has not died at the hands of a child murderer during the commission of a crime their sibling has died as a result, that any living child who was abused receives justice as well;
- That no abused child should carry the burden of deciding whether to lay charges on their offender and that all child abuse matters will be prosecuted where there is evidence to support such charges against children;
- Families of Victims be informed and given Natural Justice at every step of the prosecution process;
- That Families of Victims be given an immediate right of review for decisions that the prosecution makes in relation to their child's case if they believe that decisions made are not allowing justice for the victim;
- Family Members be allowed access to all documents that are a result of investigations into their child's death including, but not limited to, Coroner's reports and autopsies and Police investigations so they can have an informed say in the prosecution of the offender. We submit that if there is a reason why this information can not be allowed access to that a minimum requirement for information sharing be mandatory to assist the family of the victim.
Hemi Goodwin Bourke
On the 5th of June 2017, despite the viciousness of the acts against Hemi over a period of several hours that lead to his death, Hemi's killer is sentenced to just 8 years with a non parole period of just 2 years (taking into account time served). This, by no means, is justice for little Hemi who lost a whole life time or justice for his loving parents, grandparents, family and friends who adored this gorgeous child.
Hemi's parents were not kept informed or permitted to advocate for their child in the prosecution process - including being censored in their victim impact statements, being kept in the dark about the prosecution of the offender, not being heard or validated. In a further insult, the parents have been limited by the prosecution in their efforts to raise awareness to their fight for justice by way of lawful and peaceful protest.
This News.com article is a good summary of all the issues that the public need to know in Hemi's murder:
Parents’ anguish after ‘predator’ in their home killed their 18-month-old son
June 7, 2017
Hemi Goodwin-Burke had injuries all over his little body.
THE parents of a toddler who was beaten to death by his babysitter believe Australian children will continue to die if child abusers aren’t locked away longer.
Shane Burke and Kerri-Ann Goodwin this week watched as Matthew James Ireland — a man they once thought was a friend but now call a “predator” — was jailed for eight-and-a-half years for manslaughter of their 18-month-old son Hemi Goodwin-Burke.
As the sentence was being handed down at the Mackay Supreme Court some reacted furiously, shouting to Ireland, “You’re a f***ing murderer,” and “you should be all ashamed of yourself”.
Adding to their fury is the knowledge he could free in less than two years because of time already served. He has been in custody since Hemi’s death in March 2015.
The 31-year-old pleaded guilty to manslaughter after the Crown agreed to downgrade the main charge of murder.
Mr Burke, 35, and Ms Goodwin, 34, told news.com.au they were the “voices for Hemi” and want justice for their little boy.
But it’s not just a desire to see the killer of their son jailed for longer that is driving them.
It’s also regret.
“We failed. As much as people say we suffered, we [also] failed. And that’s hard for me to keep saying, because I was not there to protect Hemi. And now the State, the Crown, have failed him again,” Ms Goodwin said.
They both gave victim impact statements in court, standing metres away from Ireland, who sat with his head down in the dock.
“He didn’t look ... When we walked past to give our statements he looked at Kerri-Ann and said he was sorry ... But that doesn’t mean anything.”
They’d heard his own account of what happened the night Hemi was fatally injured.
“From [what Ireland told police] he sat outside drinking and every time he walked back inside he applied another form of violence
“Whether it was kicking him like a football, picking him up by his throat, squeezing him, pushing him down in his cot. Every time [he went inside] he did more.”
The court heard Ireland drunkenly beat Hemi over a two-hour period while babysitting him at the family home in Moranbah, Queensland.
The little boy’s body was covered in 78 bruises from being kicked and punched repeatedly.
Ireland told police Hemi hit his head on the side of the bathtub after he violently jerked the child’s leg out from under him.
He originally lied to investigators that Hemi had suffered a seizure, and tried to blame the injuries on the boy’s three-year-old sister.
Later, he conceded he was drunk. Listening to what Hemi went through “broke us”, Mr Burke said.
“Just to think of the pain he was in. We weren’t there to protect him,” Ms Goodwin said. “Think how scared he would have been.”
THE ‘PREDATOR’ IN THEIR HOME
There hasn’t been a day gone by they didn’t regret letting Ireland into their lives.
Ms Goodwin blames herself for allowing “the predator” into their homes that had been “Hemi’s safe haven”. She had been in Brisbane receiving medical treatment for a back injury and trusted Ireland to babysit.
“I let this person into our home, a place that should have been a safe haven,” Ms Goodwin said.
“I trusted him, I thought he was a friend. I’m sorry Hemi,” she said in her statement to the court.
Mr Burke had known Ireland for a decade. They’d worked in the mines together and he
had spent time with the family, looking after the children, and doing odd jobs with Mr Burke for two months. There was no sign at all he could be dangerous.
“And then when we left him alone something must have changed.”
Hemi Goodwin-Burke was 18-months-old when he died
They told him there wasn’t to be any alcohol in the house, and with no suggestion anything could go wrong, they left for the Brisbane appointment confident everything would be fine.
The night Hemi was injured they spoke to Ireland at about 6.30pm. “He said everything was fine. If it was that he was struggling and he needed help, there was opportunity to say that.”
Mr Burke’s belief was that once he started to harm Hemi there was no turning back.
“I think after he inflicted the first bruises he couldn’t stop.”
They heard something had happened early the next day and flew to Townsville where Hemi was on life support. As soon as Mr Burke laid eyes on his son he knew he was gone.
“you could tell he was gone when we walked in. Because really he had died in the bathroom when his brain stem was severed. That’s the force that was impacted on him — enough to sever his brain stem.”
It was hard to find the words to describe how they were feeling.
“We are nowhere near justice for Hemi. But we need to make sure he can’t do it again.”
They have started a petition to the Queensland Attorney-General and are also going to attempt to appeal.
“There’s so much more that could have been done. I think the message is that so many of our children are getting let down here, they’re getting a few years ... A few years for a child’s life. We need to boost these sentences, you kill a child and all you get is a slapped wrist.”
MANSLAUGHTER NOT MURDER
Mr Burke said they were told about Ireland’s desire to plead guilty to manslaughter when the case was still working its way towards the Supreme Court where they expected him to be tried for murder.
“The Crown asked us how we would feel and we told them no, we would rather go to trial,” he said.
Ms Goodwin would have rather it went before a jury and failed than to have him convicted for a lesser sentence.
“I don’t know how they can change it from murder to manslaughter.
The couple said they begged prosecutors and police to stick with murder.
“Then they told us they were downgrading it and we begged him [again] and they told us it would be hard to prove intent.”
That stunned Mr Burke — because he had viewed a video filmed by detectives where Ireland walked them through the house reconstructing what happened the day Hemi was fatally injured.
“We watched a video where he walked the police around our house saying all the things that he did, and he said it was over an 11 hour period in that video. But in court [at sentencing ] they said it was over a two hour period.”
Ms Goodwin said she’d never felt as “humiliated” as she did when she begged prosecutors not to downgrade the charge.
“We just want justice for Hemi.”
Mr Burke said the family was still fighting to get information about what really happened to his son.
“We’ve been left out of the loop the whole time,” he said “If they wanted to downgrade the charge they should have shown us why. “They’ve left us in the dark.”
Hemi’s family had planned to wear T-shirts bearing the toddler’s face during the sentencing but were ordered by Justice Duncan McMeekin not to bring them into the court.
He told them he didn’t want a silent protest.
Mrs Goodwin could understand that view if a jury was present, but didn’t accept that at sentencing. “If we have to sit there and look at the predator he should be able to sit there and look at the victim.”
But as Ireland was led away to begin his jail term, a handful of people in the public gallery quickly open jackets to reveal the shirts blazing “Justice for Hemi”.
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