Last hope for answers over baby's tragic death
THE public may never know why 12-week-old Lattrell Dodd had to go through a month of unspeakable physical abuse that led to his death.
Since the baby's parents were sentenced in the Supreme Court in Rockhampton this year - his father Christopher Allan Holland in May and his mother Megan Freeman in March - The Morning Bulletin has tried to access information about how Lattrell was left in this couple's care when he had already been placed in the care of a relative immediately after birth.
It was revealed during Holland's sentencing that baby Lattrell had been placed into Tanya Dodd's care after his birth and his parents took him without permission from her 31 days before his death.
During that 31-day period, Lattrell suffered seven skull fractures, bilateral subretinal haemorrhages and 32 fractures to his little body including 17 to his ribs.
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It was only after Lattrell displayed breathing difficulties that his father called Queensland Ambulance Service for help.
The defenceless baby ended up in Lady Cilento Hospital where medical professionals determined no treatment was working. He died on May 31, 2013, aged 12 weeks.
Justice Graeme Crow, who sentenced both of Lattrell's parents, said Ms Dodd sought assistance from police to get Lattrell back to a safe environment and was making progress. "But sadly, it was too late," he said.
Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnston said one child dies at the hands of a parent every 19 days in Australia.
"Very rarely does this happen without some prior warning," she said.
"Our child protection systems are failing our children horrendously.
"I wonder how many more kids will die before somebody in power prioritises their safety."
CQ Child Safety Facts
As at December 31, 2018:
- 101 children subject of child protection orders in CQ placed with their parents
- 1671 children subject of child protection orders placed with other carers such as foster carers or kinship carers
- 651 children subject of child protection orders were placed in kinship care.
- A kinship carer is a person who is related to the child or a member of the child's community who is considered a close family friend and` who has been approved by the department to provide family-based care for the child. Kinship carers are approved for a specific child.
The Bulletin put five questions about the Lattrell Dodd case, along with other general child safety questions, to Child Safety Minister Di Farmer, who only provided answers to the general department questions:
"Where a child is removed from a carer by a parent without permission, the department does everything necessary to return the child to the carer including contacting police and other relevant authorities," the statement read.
"The Department undertakes a thorough review around the intervention, systems and practices in each circumstance when any child known to the department dies."
Liberal National Party leader Deb Frecklington responded by saying Queensland's child safety was in crisis.
"Labor has no plan to remove children from harm's way," she said. "Queensland needs action now before another child is lost."
LNP Child Safety spokesman Stephen Bennett said: "The rapidly escalating number of deaths are an indictment of the overworked child safety department under Annastacia Palaszczuk's watch."
Holland, who had a 15-page criminal history, was sentenced to 10 years' jail with a serious violent offence declaration attached to his manslaughter conviction over Lattrell's death.
Shadow Attorney-General David Janetzki asked Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath to call for an appeal against Holland's sentence on May 28.
The Coroners Court of Queensland advised The Bulletin on July 17 that the matter had been finalised without an inquest.
Mr Janetzki then wrote a letter to Ms D'Ath asking her to request the "Coroner conduct an inquest on the grounds that an inquest may prevent future deaths by uncovering systematic problems in the child safety system".
"Although I note the Coroner has already ruled out an inquest, you have the power to direct an inquest and I believe it is an appropriate time for you to use it," Mr Janetzki wrote.
"The request is not just for the innocent Lattrell but for all vulnerable and defenceless children in Queensland."
Ms D'Ath responded: "This is a tragic case and the Attorney-General is still considering the request.
"A Systems and Practice Review has already been completed in relation to Lattrell Dodd's death, and the matter was also considered by the former Child Death Case Review Committee."