Parents of slain toddler drive 1000km for new laws

THE parents of slain toddler Hemi Goodwin-Burke have travelled to Brisbane to witness the State Government introduce a bill that could see murderers languish in prison for life.

Shane Burke and Kerri-Ann Goodwin said they were notified of the State Government's plans to introduce Criminal Code and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 during the Parliament's first sitting day of the year on Sunday night.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the legislation would expand the definition of murder.

"My Government intends to redefine murder so that murder includes the unlawful killing of another if the death is caused by an act or omission with reckless indifference to human life," she said.

"We want to see stronger sentences imposed when people take the lives of our most vulnerable - children, the elderly and the disabled.

"The Bill is also aimed at capturing those child manslaughter cases at the 'higher end' of culpability, involving violence or significant neglect but where intent to kill or cause grievous bodily harm cannot be proved beyond a reasonable doubt."

Hemi Goodwin-Burke was 18 months old when he was bashed to death by his babysitter Matthew James Ireland in 2015. Ireland's parole eligibility date was set for March 2019.

Parent's of murdered toddler Hemi Goodwin-Burke, Shane Burke and Kerri-Ann Goodwin.
Parent's of murdered toddler Hemi Goodwin-Burke, Shane Burke and Kerri-Ann Goodwin.

The Goodwin-Burke's said the call from the State Government came after the LNP contacted them earlier that week to flag the introduction of a Private Member's Bill.

The Opposition's bill aims to bring in its promised new minimum non-parole period of 25 years for the murder of a child and a new offence of child manslaughter with a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years.

Hemi's parents said they want to be in the room when both bills are introduced, following years of campaigning for harsher sentencing for child killers and began driving to Brisbane on Monday.

"We just like to make sure they get implemented and make sure the right change happens," Mr Burke said.

"What we really want is for both parties to work together and make the right choice instead of arguing," Ms Goodwin said.

Queensland Law Society President Bill Potts said it would be hard to comment on either piece of legislation at this point but urged that any proposed tougher child homicide laws not include any form of mandatory sentencing regime.

"It is imperative Queensland courts need to be able to take into account all circumstances that might have led to the death of a child when determining an appropriate sentence," he said.

"Bad cases often make for bad laws, so what we need to do is to allow the courts to better explain themselves."