It is completely unacceptable that, due to parliamentary gridlock, any kind of discount remains available at all for people of this calibre
FROM the recent cast of characters to appear before our courts, it is hard to recall a more deeply unpleasant weirdo than 35-year-old Matthew James McIntyre.
Weirdo might be too jocular a term for this bloke, come to think of it. This conniving predator preyed on one of the most vulnerable members of our community, a 13-year-old girl who is a ward of the state, someone who, sickeningly enough, is 22 years his junior and was forced to carry his child until its termination, as a result of a sustained online grooming exercise.
This case raises many questions, and none of them is good.
It raises questions about the fact that, even though our parliament claimed to have been fixing this months ago, sentencing discounts are still being offered with the effect of rewarding people whose behaviour is wholly inexcusable, who have no alibi or ameliorating circumstances to explain their conduct, but merely plead guilty to something heinous because they have no choice on the facts before the court, and end up getting a lesser sentence away.
It raises questions about the oversight and protection being provided for children in state care, kids who, in the great lottery of life, have wound up with parents who at best are profoundly incompetent and at worst are simply deadbeats.
It raises questions for parents more broadly about the existence of a deeply suspect dating app, designed especially for teenagers, an invention with which the world could surely have done without.
It also raises political questions about ministerial accountability, given the refusal of the relevant minister, presumably on the grounds of sheer nervousness, to front up to the media and address the many valid public-interest questions surrounding the case.
The Advertiser reporter Mitch Mott reported this week when McIntyre was sentenced to three years and nine months’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of one year and 11 months, making him eligible for parole in July 2022.
“The offending came to light in January 2020, when a youth care worker noticed uncharacteristic behaviour from the teenager,” Mott wrote.
“The worker checked the young girl’s phone and found ‘a large number of disturbing text messages’ from McIntyre. McIntyre met the girl through Mylol, a teenage dating app, which he claimed to have been using to communicate with his partner despite living in the same house as her.
“He said the girl approached him through the app and he thought she was 17 or 18. The court heard that by the time the two were texting, McIntyre must have known her age as she made reference to not wanting to go to high school and having to buy a school uniform. It was likely that the man was also aware that his young victim was in state care.”
The comments of Judge Julie McIntyre (no relation) about the offender paint a picture of a seriously screwed-up man. The judge says the text messages between McIntyre and the girl showed that the teenager was trying to end the relationship.
“You, on the other hand, persistently expressed a desire to meet up with her for sexual intercourse, even saying you wished to get her pregnant,” Judge McIntyre said.
“At one point, somewhat oddly, you expressed a wish to adopt her and introduce her to your girlfriend and daughter.”
I know judges aren’t prone to hyperbole but the term “somewhat oddly” in that context might be the understatement of the year.
None of this is a knock on the judge, who, to her credit, refused to give McIntyre the full 40 per cent discount available. But it is completely unacceptable that, due to parliamentary gridlock, any kind of discount remains available at all for people of the calibre of Matthew James McIntyre, whose behaviour was rightly described by Judge McIntyre as “disgraceful, predatory and persistent.”
It seems wholly wrong that for a calculated crime of this magnitude – committed against someone so young and without any of the familial props enjoyed by most children – this lowrent creep can walk free in fewer than two years.
What kind of protections exist for children like these? Where are they housed? Do all of them have their phones checked and, if they are at risk, do they ever have their phones taken away for their own safety? How many kids are in this situation?
These are the sorts of questions that I imagine the community would want answered. They are also the sorts of questions that Child Protection Minister Rachel Sanderson seems determined to avoid.
I really struggle to understand the manner in which this has been handled by the State Government, which, in opposition, never missed a chance to prosecute stories such as these.
The thing is, it would be unfair to crucify Sanderson over this issue, as these cases have at their starting point not a political failing but a familial one, which the government is trying to address.
But the public is still owed an explanation as to how well the government is performing to that end.
It’s not acceptable that the minister and the department merely pump out statements to address the issue, especially when those statements are so vacuous and laden with platitudes as to be utterly meaningless. We received a two-sentence statement from the minister yesterday, the first of which read “The safety and wellbeing of children and young people in care remains our No 1 priority.” The statement from the Department for Child Protection deputy chief executive Fiona Ward began with this sentence: “The safety and wellbeing of children and young people in care is our top priority.”
At least change a few more of the words, guys, it might look like you’re trying. Somewhere a press secretary is earning 100 grand a year to hit the cut and paste button on Microsoft Word and email this dross to journos.
(Source The Advertiser 18/9/20)