PeakCare Media Release Thursday 22nd November 2018
“The death of two infant children in the space of two days in Queensland is shocking,” says Lindsay Wegener, Executive Director of PeakCare, a Queensland child protection peak body.
“As a society, we can be nothing less than deepened saddened, grossly offended and angry that defenceless and innocent babies have suffered such senseless and violent deaths at the hands of adults who were meant to protect and care for them,” says Lindsay.
With the release of the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council’s report into the penalties imposed on those who have caused the death of children coinciding with the death of these children, the community’s outpouring of grief and disgust has been given a focus according to Lindsay.
He noted that conclusions reached by the Council that penalties being handed down by courts have failed to take into account the vulnerability of children and to meet community expectations about punishments that fit the crime have been accepted by both the Government and the Opposition. Recommendations that will remove discrepancies in the sentencing of those responsible for the deaths of children and adults have been welcomed by the Government with Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington vowing to go one step further by introducing a private members’ bill to set a 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.
According to Lindsay, the question that both the Government and the Opposition are now being asked to wrestle with is, “What price do you place on the life of a child?”
“Clearly, a child’s life can be afforded no less value than an adult’s and they are no less entitled or worthy than an adult in receiving a just response,” says Lindsay. “The difficulty is that no matter what the penalty for taking the life of a child may end up being, some people will never accept that the penalty is sufficient.”
The caution that should be exercised by the Government and the Opposition, according to Lindsay, is to not enter into a futile bidding war to see who can appear the toughest in dishing out punishments.
“This will not bring those children back to us and, it will do little, in the long run, in saving the lives of others,” says Lindsay. “As outraged as we may be when a child is killed, we must become similarly outraged about all the social factors that have contributed to their deaths.”
It is unacceptable, according to Lindsay, that there are infants and children in our midst whose parents are living in abject poverty, who are homeless or whose lives are being torn apart by mental health issues that are often the result of their own childhood abuse or neglect.
“When we know, and have known from research for many years, that it is early intervention that works and works best in keeping children safe and well, it is not acceptable that families continue to have insufficient access to the services that can provide them with this support,” says Lindsay.
“We can be outraged, and rightly so, by the lesser level of penalty paid by those who have killed a child in comparison with those who have murdered an adult,” says Lindsay. “But we must also be outraged that governments at all levels are not yet doing all they can to ensure that the right services and measures are in place to intervene much earlier in the lives of families before their struggles become insurmountable and tragedy strikes.”
Lindsay argues that when a child dies in our midst, it is not only the individual who perpetrated the crime who should be held to account. “When a child dies, there is a price that we all should all pay in reflecting on what more we can do to keep our children safe and well,” he says.
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