The pokies have gotten a bad rap over the years. Problem gamblers always exist, and the worse they fare, the more criticism that tends to befall the poker machines they lost on. I’m an avid lover of the fast-paced gambling devices myself, and often play online pokies in my spare time, but like the majority of Australians, I don’t go overboard. Sadly, its people like the 58 year old grandmother in this story that put the cherry on top for anti-pokie advocates.
Earlier this month, a grandmother, whose name was never published by the courts to protect the identities of the underage victims in the incident, committed a crime of the most negligent sort. She left two of her grandchildren in the car while she went inside the pub across the street to play the pokies for half an hour or more, according to prosecutors. To make matters even worse, the grandchildren were extremely young, ages 1 and 3.
The incident occurred in the small town of Nanango in the South Burnett region of Queensland. On the afternoon of June 10th, the authorities were notified by a witness who said they observed the two young children screaming inside a car parked on Fitzroy Street near the local shops. The police responded to the call, then immediately began searching all of the nearby stores to find the owner of the car.
Senior Constable Des Neijens, prosecutor for the police, told the court that officers were eventually able to track down the 58 year old grandmother when they entered the century-old Fitzroy Hotel. The Toowoomba Magistrates Court went on to hear allegations that the grandmother had left the children in the car for 30 minutes while playing the pokies in the pub, but the unnamed offender told a different story.
According to her solicitor, Chris Lumme, the 58 year old grandmother had not been away from the car for more than 5 minutes, and that playing the pokies was not her original intent. Mr. Lumme pled her case to the Magistrate, Bruce Schemionek, stating that she had full charge of all three of her grandchildren, the youngest two of which were with her that day. He said that she had only left them in the car for a moment while she entered a different shop to buy food, but that before she returned to the car, she found herself in need of a toilet.
Mr. Lumme told the Magistrate that the facilities at the pub were the nearest to her, so that’s where she went. Upon exiting the restroom, however, she walked past the poker machines and decided to put $1 in. Upon spinning the reels, she was awarded a number of free spins, which she alleges to have been playing out when the police arrived.
Having been found guilty in the case, Mr. Lumme beseeched the Magistrate to let the offense go unrecorded so as to protect the grandmother’s Blue Card status. Schemionek acquiesced to the request, ruling that the conviction and subsequent sentence of 12 month probation go unrecorded, but he also took a moment to give a stern warning, demanding that she “not ever leave those children alone again”.