RYAN Hodson watched baby Mason Lee die a slow, painful and preventable death.

Even after seeing him lying on the bathroom floor, blue in colour, he never called for help.

Last week, the now 18-year-old, who was originally charged with manslaughter, admitted to lawyers he was meant to be looking after the toddler on three separate occasions the day before he died and agreed to plead guilty to a lesser charge of cruelty to a child under 16.

But a Brisbane Supreme Court Justice yesterday found Hodson wasn't to blame for failing to get medical help for 21-month-old child because he was just a 17-year-old flatmate, who never accepted responsibility for the little boy.

Justice David Jackson said it have would set a “dangerous precedent” for other teenagers in houses where children were abused or killed. Pictured: Ryan Hodson. Picture: AAP Image/Glenn Hunt
Justice David Jackson said it have would set a “dangerous precedent” for other teenagers in houses where children were abused or killed. Pictured: Ryan Hodson. Picture: AAP Image/Glenn Hunt

Moments before accepting Hodson's plea of guilty, Justice David Jackson launched a scathing criticism of a plan to allow him to be sentenced for the offence.

He said it have would set a "dangerous precedent" for other teenagers in houses where children were abused or killed and the charges were dropped.

"The defendant isn't a relation of Mason Lee," Justice Jackson said.

"There is no statement that he ever agreed to take care of Mason Lee and no statement he ever did anything by way of the care of Mason Lee, like changing his nappy or making food or a bottle."

Justice Jackson found Hodson had never been in "lawful care or charge" of baby Mason, despite being left alone with the child when he was unwell.

"He accepted that he was lawfully in charge," Justice Jackson said.

"I understand he wishes to make that admission but the facts are inconsistent."

All charges were yesterday withdrawn and Hodson walked free from court after spending about 400 days behind bars on remand.

The man, who was only aged 17 when Mason died, was originally charged with manslaughter alongside the child's mother, Annemaree Louise Lee, and stepfather, William Andrew O'Sullivan, but Hodson's charges were downgraded last Friday.

Despite finding him not responsible for Mason's death, Justice Jackson accepted Hodson's actions were cold.

"I have expressed no view about morality. No view about responsibility," he said.

"You could say easily he's uncaring ... You can say he is irresponsible and you can say, in some respects, his speech indicated he responded in a nasty matter but it is not being said he, in fact, physically, in any way hurt this child or in the circumstances, in fact assumed any responsibility."

timeline_web.jpg
timeline_web.jpg

Mason Lee died at Mr O'Sullivan's Caboolture home on June 11, 2016, after suffering multiple injuries, including a ruptured intestine - allegedly from a blow to the abdomen, which led to sepsis.

Experts have previously said he would have survived if given proper medical care.

Three days before Mason died, Annemaree Lee moved out of the home.

Hodson had only moved in two weeks earlier.

The court yesterday heard a police officer arrived at the Caboolture property the day after the baby's mother left and saw the toddler "looking pale and not looking well".

On June 8, Hodson's girlfriend told O'Sullivan to take the boy to hospital, the court yesterday heard, but no one did.

By the morning of June 10, things were getting worse for baby Mason and the toddler was left alone with Hodson for about two hours.

Hodson and Mason were together by themselves at the home again twice again that day, only hours before the little boy's death.

At 8.30pm Hodson's girlfriend text him telling him to "do something" for Mason or she would call Child Safety Services to which Hodson replied, 'It's nothing to do with us", the court heard.

Brisbane Supreme Court Justice David Jackson’s comments.
Brisbane Supreme Court Justice David Jackson’s comments.

"At 8.47pm, the defendant says he saw Mr O'Sullivan showering with Mason Lee and he saw Mason Lee blue on the floor ... at 9.17 the defendant leaves and he doesn't return."

Mason died that night and an ambulance was not called until some hours later, the court heard.

Justice Jackson found Hodson's age was a critical factor in determining whether he was responsible for the toddler in the days leading up to his death.

"It's time people started talking in legal language that is accurate ... he is not an adult, he is a child in the house alone with Mason Lee," he said.
Crown Prosecutor Vicki Loury argued Hodson was "capable of taking responsibility for a very small child."

"I say because he was alone with the child and by his admission that he was willing to make for the purposes of this sentence ... that he had lawful care of the child," she said.

"You say because he admits it, that's good enough - it doesn't matter in law that it's wrong?" Justice Jackson said.

Justice Jackson conceded the "background" to Hodson's plea offer was that he had been in custody for more than a year and wanted to be released.

"I am concerned there is a legal error and potentially involved in finding him guilty ... the facts I've been asked to act on don't look like a case of lawful care of a child in circumstances where Mr Hodson has a lesser relationship with Mason Lee, where he is a (teenage) member of the household."

Both the manslaughter and the cruelty charges were yesterday discontinued. Lee and O'Sullivan are still expected to face trials for manslaughter and will apply for their matters to be heard by judge alone.

Hodson's lawyer, Mark Williams, declined to comment.

A spokesman for the Director of Public Prosecutions declined to comment.



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