A former Cairns childcare centre director has been sentenced to six years in jail for manslaughter after a three-year-old boy was left on a minibus and died last year.
WARNING: This story contains images of Indigenous people who have died.
Michael Glenn Lewis will be eligible for parole in 18 months.
The then childcare centre director, collected the boy with the Goodstart Early Learning Centre minibus in February last year but failed to take the boy off the bus.
Maliq Nicholas Lloyd Namok-Malamoo, known to his family as “Meeky”, was left alone on the bus where temperatures soared to 56 degrees Celsius.
He was found dead later that day.
In his sentencing, Justice James Henry said Meeky was entrusted to Lewis’s care and his death created “unfathomable grief” for the child’s family.
He said Lewis was a most improbable offender and the sentence was not for any kind of deliberate infliction of harm.
Justice Henry said while he accepted Lewis was genuinely remorseful, he said his lack of care was criminally negligent.
He said there had been considerable confusion over the pick-up situation that morning and Lewis was running late and distracted.
Justice Henry said if Lewis had complied with the centre’s sign-in and out methods, Meeky would not have died.
He said the degree of criminal negligence performed by Lewis would concern any member of society, but the failings were also a result of understaffing at the centre.
The court also heard the result of the negligence was so severe, the punishment needed to be severe enough to show the community’s denouncement of the actions.
‘He was such a light’
On Tuesday the court heard Lewis failed to take Meeky off the bus or sign him in after arriving at the centre.
In his statement on Tuesday, Lewis also turned to face the family, sitting in the gallery and delivered a tearful apology.
“I’m so sorry, poor family, I’m so sorry,” Lewis said.
“He was such a light – you guys were so beautiful – from the bottom of my heart I am very sorry it happened.”
Crown prosecutor Nathan Crane said on the day of the incident, Lewis initially forgot to pick up Meeky from his Mount Sheridan home, with his mother, Muriel Namok calling the centre at 8.30am.
He said Lewis and another childcare worker, Dionne Batrice Grills, dropped off the children already in the bus and doubled back to pick up the toddler from his home at 9.20am.
Mr Crane said the child was not signed in on the bus, which was against centre policy, and this was not an uncommon occurrence.
“It was generally noted by parents that when Lewis was conducting the pick-up or the home-run he had not signed in their children onto the bus,” Mr Crane said.