Push for sentencing review after Mason’s death
WHEN the man who beat toddler Mason Lee until his intestines ruptured walked from the dock of the Supreme Court, he turned to a woman in the back row and shrugged.
In all likelihood, William O'Sullivan would be free in four years, despite admitting to bashing a little boy and doing nothing as he screamed and vomited, taking five days to die.
But the severity of his sentence - a six-year non-parole period for manslaughter - was kept secret for a week out of concern for his co-accused, Mason's mother Annemarree Lee.
In an earlier secret hearing, lawyers for Lee had argued "persistent" media attention and a "rallying cry" from a horrified public had ruined her chances for a fair trial.
With Chief Justice Catherine Holmes slapping a suppression order on the hearing to avoid further prejudicing Lee's case, they worried there would be little chance of an appeal.
There is only a 28-day window in which the Director of Public Prosecutions can appeal a sentence.
Seven of those days are gone - leaving the Attorney-General with a tiny window to respond to calls to fight for a longer sentence.
Her decision was unusual - three members of Rick Thorburn's family gave evidence in their own court matters of the murder he'd carried out on 12-year-old foster child Tiahleigh Palmer without suppression orders put in place.
And Matthew Scown, convicted of the manslaughter of Tyrell Cobb in strikingly similar circumstances to the Mason Lee case, had his matter heard in open court before that of his co-accused and the child's mother Heidi Strbak.
Investigators worried that if the public didn't know of O'Sullivan's sentence, there would be no outcry, and no pressure on those in authority to do something.
And they were likely right. Within minutes of the suppression order's removal yesterday, there were calls for an appeal.
"I think we need to take our sentencing regime and throw it out the window," Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnston said.
"We have to draw a line in the sand and say, right, let's start again. We need a system that actually respects children. The harshest penalties should be reserved for those who harm children."
Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington described the sentence as "completely inadequate", calling for the State Government to demand an immediate appeal.
"Child killers shouldn't get off this easily," she said.
Lee will now face a judge-only trial after her lawyer successfully argued potential jurors would have been influenced by media coverage.