Aaron Bunch Journalist with Australian Associated Press | Collection of published work | + 61 484 008 119 | abunch@aap.com.au

Aaron Bunch
Child safety ignored police over toddler

In the months before Mason Jet Lee died, Queensland child safety officers failed to pass on information to police despite two search warrants demanding it.

March 25, 2020

Queensland child safety officers failed to pass on information to police about neglected toddler Mason Jet Lee despite two search warrants demanding it.

The 21-month-year-old was struck in the abdomen by his mother’s boyfriend so hard it ruptured his small intestine, which led to his death from an infection in June 2016.

In the months before, concerned doctors raised the alarm about Mason after he was admitted to hospital with the worst injuries his veteran pediatrician had ever seen, a Brisbane inquest into his death has been told.

A Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect team meeting in March 2016, involving child safety officers, police and doctors, determined Mason’s case required a joint investigation.

Despite this, child safety officers failed to share critical information with police, who were concerned Mason may have been the victim of a criminal offence or child harm, inquest exhibits released on Wednesday show.

“A free flow of relevant information did not exist particularly from child safety to the Queensland Police Service,” Detective Inspector Stephen Blanchfield said in a written statement.

“The apparent need for the investigating officer to obtain two separate search warrants … seems to fly in the face of the intent of joint investigations.”

Det Insp Blanchfield said an internal review found police followed procedures, but child safety officers did not pass on all information about the initial reports into Mason’s suspected harm.

Earlier, a doctor, who can’t be identified for legal reasons, told the inquest that when he examined Mason in February 2016, he had skin missing from his bottom in five areas and was “seriously unwell”.

He was also suffering from a fracture to his right leg, which had led to bacterial infection causing it to swell to twice its normal size.

Mason’s mother, Anne-Maree Lee, attributed the skin loss to a nappy rash but the doctor found this unlikely.

He told the inquest the wounds were much worse than a usual abrasion or rash and likely to have been caused by poor hygiene and care.

The doctor said he also found a tear to Mason’s anus during a follow-up examination two months later, which he suspected may have been caused by abuse.

Lee and her partner William O’Sullivan pleaded guilty to Mason’s manslaughter and cruelty to a child by failing to get him medical treatment in February last year.

The pair were sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment but O’Sullivan’s sentence was increased to 12 years following an appeal by Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath.

The inquest continues behind closed doors due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

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