Gambling addict mum left kids alone

TRACEY CHATTERTON
Last updated 05:00 17/07/2014

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A 10-month-old baby was one of three children under the age of 4 left home alone by their gambling-addicted mother.

Jenny Wuatai, 31, pleaded guilty to three charges of leaving young children unsupervised when she appeared in Napier District Court yesterday.

A charge of neglecting a child was withdrawn because the Crown did not have enough evidence.

The court heard how, on July 25 last year, Wuatai left the 10-month-old at home with a one-year-old and three-year-old.

The children were found when her eldest son, aged 6, was taken home sick by Lucknow School principal Paul Grundy.

Wuatai returned home after being contacted - almost three hours after she had left.

Lawyer Will Hawkins said she had a gambling problem at the time but had since sought help and still had care of her four children.

A Child, Youth and Family spokeswoman said the department took steps at the time to ensure the immediate safety of the children, but she declined to say whether they were temporarily removed from Wuatai's custody.

"We are continuing to work with the family," she said.

Judge Geoff Rea fined Wuatai $750 and ordered her to pay court costs. She declined to comment outside court.

Problem Gambling Foundation chief executive Graeme Ramsey said he could not recall hearing of a child younger than 10 months being left unsupervised by a gambling parent.

But cases of children being abandoned by problem gamblers were all too common and highlighted the need for greater regulation of things such as pokie machines, he said.

"Unfortunately . . . cases like this get brought to our attention probably once a month. These machines can make good parents lose all track of time and responsibilities."

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- The Dominion Post

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