Mason Lee died in 2016.
Mason Lee died in 2016.

Child safety role a focus of Mason Lee inquest

THE possible failures of child safety to prevent the death of toddler Mason Jet Lee is expected to be put under the microscope in an upcoming inquest scheduled into the baby's death.

The coronial inquiry, which has now been given a date in November, will consider whether "persons with responsibility for ensuring the safety of children in need of protection, and whether there are ways in which such individuals can be better supported to carry out this significant responsibility in the future".

A coronial inquiry into the death of Mason Lee is likely to be held in November.
A coronial inquiry into the death of Mason Lee is likely to be held in November.

Mason suffered a slow and painful death over days in 2016, when he was just 22 months old, after his intestines were ruptured.

The Courier-Mail previously revealed Department of Child Safety officers visited the home of the baby's mother only three days before the toddler died, but failed to realise he was dying at his stepfather's property only one kilometre away.

A pre-inquest conference held in Brisbane this morning heard among the issues to be considered in the probe into the baby's death was whether recommendations should be made about "persons with responsibility for ensuring the safety of children in need of protection" and whether "persons who are violent towards and neglectful of children" could be prevented from causing such horrific deaths in the future.

Mason's mother Anne Maree Lee and her boyfriend William Andrew O'Sullivan have both been convicted over the child's killing.

Lee was sentenced in the Brisbane Supreme Court to nine years after pleading guilty to manslaughter.

She was handed a sentence of 3½ years behind bars for the child cruelty offence but because she had already spent 937 days in custody, will be eligible for parole as early as this month.

Mason's stepfather was given a nine-year sentence for beating the child.

O'Sullivan admitted to the crime and was found guilty of manslaughter, a charge that could see him walk free in four years with time already served.

Andrew O'Sullivan
Andrew O'Sullivan

The State has appealed both sentences and the Queensland Court of Appeal has reserved their decisions.

The pre-inquest on Thursday heard those who had been criminally charged over the death would be called to give evidence in the inquest.

The conference also heard the probe was expected to consider the Queensland Police Service's involvement in the lead up to Mason's death.

"Unlike Child Safety and Health Services, the services provided by the QPS to Mason and his family in the months prior to Mason's death were not reviewed or investigated as part of the government's response to Mason's death," counsel assisting the coroner Megan Jarvis said.

"This is not a criticism of the QPS.

"Rather, it is a reflection of the framework in place at that time for reviewing deaths of children known to Child Safety.

"That framework did not include any mechanism for QPS involvement to be reviewed, either as a stand-alone review or as part of the reviews undertaken by other agencies."

The pre-inquest hearing heard no decision had yet been made about witnesses in the inquest but in light of events in 2015 where nurse Marcia Maynard took her own life shortly before she was due to give evidence at an inquest into the death of one of her patients, the inquest was expected to treat carefully.

"We remain very sensitive to the impact inquests can have on witnesses, particularly those with close involvement in the death," Ms Jarvis said.

" … this inquest involves the death of a very young and vulnerable child, in violent and horrific circumstances, with much public interest and associated media attention, and where individuals may be criticised in the public sphere for not preventing the death.

"While it is the court's very strong intention for this inquest not to be a blaming exercise, that can only go so far in alleviating any anxiety individuals might have related to being called to give evidence about Mason's death."

The inquest will begin on November 25 and a further pre-inquest conference is expected to be held later this year.

Anne Maree Lee
Anne Maree Lee