State appeals child killer’s latest sentence

THE Attorney-General has called for a callous child killer convicted of assaulting a second child to be given a tougher sentence after being shown "unjustifiable leniency" by the sentencing judge.

Matthew James Ireland was jailed in 2017 for the horrific killing of 18-month-old Hemi Burke while he was babysitting the little boy in March 2015 at Moranbah.

Ireland drunkenly beat Hemi over a two-hour period, leaving him with more than 78 bruises from being repeatedly punched and kicked, and a severed brain stem when Ireland jerked the boys' legs out from under him, causing the toddler's head to smash on the bathtub.

Ireland was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years' jail for Hemi's manslaughter in 2017, but because of time already served, his parole eligibility was set at this month.

That parole eligibility was pushed back by just two months this year when Ireland pleaded guilty to assaulting another child, a three-year-old girl, in 2015, the same year he killed little Hemi.

He was sentenced to six months' jail for the assault on the girl, but will only have to serve two months of that time.

The Attorney General today appealed the "lenient sentence", arguing it was "manifestly excessive.

Crown Prosecutor Daniel Boyle, for the Attorney General, today argued the child killer had been shown "unjustifiable leniency" which resulted in an "inadequate sentence".

Mr Boyle told the Court of Appeal that Ireland had shown a "total lack of remorse" when he bashed the three-year-old girl.


Hemi Goodwin-Burke's parents outside court today. Picture: Liam Kidston
Hemi Goodwin-Burke's parents outside court today. Picture: Liam Kidston



Matthew James Ireland with toddler Hemi Goodwin-Burke
Matthew James Ireland with toddler Hemi Goodwin-Burke


But Ireland's defence barrister argued the appeal had "no merit" and that the prosecutor's push for a 12-month cumulative sentence to be imposed was higher than even the original case prosecutor had submitted for.

Outside court, Hemi Burke's parents said it was a slap in the face to see Hemi's killer given such a lenient sentence for attacking another child.

"This perpetrator killed our son and also beat a little girl and he's getting four years and two months non parole for that," Shane Burke said.

"Four years and two months for taking the life of a child and beating another one, that's not right, it's not enough. We need tougher head sentences, we need double digits at least."


Hemi Goodwin-Burke was bashed to death by Matthew James Ireland.
Hemi Goodwin-Burke was bashed to death by Matthew James Ireland.


"These weak sentences are just not good enough. I think Queensland's had enough, I know we've had enough and we need to see some real sentences."

The pair were supported in court by other parents who have lost their children who have been killed in Queensland including Cyndi Palmer, whose 12-year-old daughter Tiahleigh was murdered by her foster father Rick Thorburn.

"We're trying very hard to support each other in this which is how it should be," Hemi's grandmother Lyn Burke said.

"This isn't one or two children, it's a whole mass and there's a lot (of defendants) still going through the system and if nothing changes, they're only going to get these (low) sentences."

The appeal court reserved its decision.