Hemi Les Burke was bashed to death by his babysitter Matthew James Ireland in 2015.
Hemi Les Burke was bashed to death by his babysitter Matthew James Ireland in 2015. Contributed

How Hemi's parents plan to keep a child killer in jail

THE parents of a Moranbah toddler bashed to death by his babysitter have asked to stand before the Parole Board to speak out against the child killer's release.

Hemi Burke's father Shane said the current laws made him feel like his son's life was only worth four years.

Hemi's killer Matthew James Ireland, who violently bashed the 18-month-old boy over several hours in March 2015, was handed eight and a half years for manslaughter.

With time already served he will be able to apply for parole next month on May 24.


Matthew James Ireland, 32, faced Mackay Magistrates Court on Thursday, April 26, 2018.
Matthew James Ireland was convicted and jailed for manslaughter and can apply for parole next month. Contributed

"We're allowed to send a letter saying why we don't believe he should be released," Mr Burke said.

"We've asked to speak in person. We want to stand up in front of the Parole Board.

"We want them to look in our eyes while we tell them this child killer shouldn't be allowed out."

Under current Queensland correctional centre policy prisoners who are remanded in custody, but haven't been sentenced, can't participate in any rehabilitative programs offered through the jail.

Ireland, 33, was only sentenced in June 2017 although he had been in custody since his arrest in 2015.

"Is two years enough to rehabilitate someone who things they can beat a child to death?" Mr Burke said.

"Is two years enough... I don't think so.

"I just know that it's not good enough."


Townsville man Matthew James Ireland, 31, will face trial over the murder of 18-month-old Moranbah boy Hemi Burke. Contributed
Moranbah boy Hemi Burke died after he was violently assaulted by his babysitter. Contributed Contributed

Mr Burke said he was devastated a bill calling for harsher penalties for child killers was voted down.

"We've been trying for over four years to change these laws to get justice," Shane Burke said.

"Hemi wasn't killed by an accident. Hemi was continually beaten until he died.

"In our case we were headed to trial for murder... and it was downgraded to manslaughter."

The LNP wanted to introduce a new offence of child homicide with a mandatory 15-year jail penalty, as well as increasing the minimum non-parole period for the murder of a child under 18 from 20 to 25 years.


Shane Burke and Kerri-Ann Goodwin
Hemi's parents Shane Burke and Kerri-Ann Goodwin. Tony Martin

Whereas a Parliamentary Committee instead supported Labor's Bill, which expands the definition of murder, adds a new aggravating factor to the manslaughter of a child under 12 and increases the maximum penalty for child negligence from three to seven years.

"We don't know what to do at the moment. We're devastated," Mr Burke said.

"I just thought these minimum mandatory (terms) would lock in at least double digits for these child killers.

"It's not good enough. These people have violently taken a child's life."

Mr Burke vowed to keep pushing for harsher penalties.

"We're not going to go away... we're going to keep fighting for change," he said.


Shane Burke and Kerri-Ann Goodwin
Shane Burke and Kerri-Ann Goodwin vow to keep fighting for justice. Tony Martin