Matthew James Ireland has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of 18-month-old Moranbah toddler Hemi Burke.
Matthew James Ireland has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of 18-month-old Moranbah toddler Hemi Burke. Contributed

Parents' tribute to dead toddler banned from courtroom

THE family of a toddler bashed to death by his babysitter were ordered by a Mackay Supreme Court judge to remove T-shirts featuring a tribute to their little boy as they sat eyeballing his killer.

Hemi Burke's distraught parents Kerri-Anne Goodwin and Shane Burke said last night they were still in shock at the ruling - and vowed to wear the shirts again when his killer was sentenced.

"I just can't understand how we have to sit there and look at the accused, but he can't sit there and look at our little boy," Ms Goodwin said.

"There's nothing incriminating on these shirts. It's just a picture of him."

Matthew James Ireland, 31, yesterday pleaded guilty by video link in Mackay to the manslaughter of Hemi on March 26, 2015.

Ireland was babysitting 18-month-old Hemi when he was rushed to hospital with injuries including dozens of bruises to his body, brain damage and ruptured internal organs.

His parents and several family members donned "Justice for Hemi" T-shirts for the hearing, but they were asked to remove them, on direction of Justice James Henry.

Visibly annoyed, they turned the shirts inside out for the brief hearing.

Justice Henry told the family he meant "no disrespect" by asking them to take off the shirts.


Shane Burke and Kerri-Ann Goodwin
Shane Burke and Kerri-Ann Goodwin Tony Martin

"I was asked before in the court whether it was appropriate or permissible for persons to be wearing T-shirts with 'justice for' the name of the deceased. I should explain why, because I mean no offence whatsoever by that position," he said during the hearing.

"The courtroom cannot be seen by the public ... where protest from the gallery might be thought to influence the way in which decision-making occurred.

"The court needs no reminder that its role is justice.

"It's simply this is not the place in which any silent protest is appropriate."

Justice Henry said the family's anguish could be taken into account when Ireland was sentenced.

After the hearing, the family reversed their shirts so Hemi's face was visible again.

"He was a beautiful little boy... our little bundle of joy," Mr Burke said.

He and Ms Goodwin also expressed disappointment over Ireland's charge being downgraded from murder.

In the Magistrates Court last September, prosecutor Sheena Hayes said a forensic pathologist's report said bruising to multiple sites was consistent with multiple blunt-force impacts.

Ireland will appear in the Mackay Supreme Court in June for sentencing.


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