Mum sentenced for leaving baby screaming in hot car while playing pokie in pub

Kuo tautea ha fefine Tonga ‘i Nu’u Sila ko Kalota Palu ke ngāue ki he komiunitii’ houa 'e 100 pea tokanga'i ia 'e ha ma'umafai ‘i ha māhina ‘e 12. Na’e faka’ilo ia ki he ‘ikai ke ne malava ‘i hono fatongia’ ke malu’i ha tama. Ka ne fakahikihiki’i ia ‘e he fakamaau ‘i he mahino kuo ne ako ‘a e ngaahi koosi ke liliu ‘ene mo’ui mei he nunu’a tamaki ‘o e misini tā pa’anga’. Ko e me’a ‘eni ne hoko ‘i Nōvema ‘aho 15 ko ‘ene tuku ‘e ia ha ki’i pēpē māhina ua ‘i ha kā kae ‘alu ia ‘o tā mīsini ‘i ha papu ‘i Nawton, Hamilitoni. Ne fou atu ha taha he pākingi ‘o ne ‘ilo e ngā ‘a e leka’ ‘o nau feinga ai ‘o fakaava ‘o to’o ki tu’a leleaki’i ki fale mahaki.

By Mike Mather,

While Kalota Palu played and won on the poker machines in a Hamilton pub, her baby suffered in a hot car outside.

The Ōtorohanga woman was sentenced to four months of community detention when she appeared in the Hamilton District Court on Friday, on a charge of failing to take reasonable steps to protect a child.

It was a charge that came with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

Palu was also sentenced to undertake 100 hours of community work and 12 months of supervision by Judge Philip Connell.

But along with the punishments, the judge also dished out some praise for the 23-year-old, who had voluntarily taken and completed a course to help her combat her addiction to gambling, run by the Salvation Army. 

She has also made a start on a parenting course run by the same organisation.

As her lawyer Shaam Bhardwaj told the court, she had done this while occasionally enduring derision from people who knew who she was and what had happened. 

It was on Thursday, November 15, when Palu left a two-month-old baby in a car for more than an hour while she played on the poker machines in the Yard House Bar in Nawton, Hamilton.

At the time she was deeply in debt and the pokies provided hope of a solution to that dilemma.

She had gone into the bar at 2.55pm. Her baby was fast asleep in the car and she left the doors locked and the windows down – but only marginally.

It was 22 degrees outside and the car quickly began to warm up.

She had gone back to check on her child once, but returned to the machines.

As she played, she lost track of time.

At 4.12pm someone pulled up in their vehicle next to where Palu’s was parked and immediately noticed the baby screaming inside.

With the help of others, they managed to break into the vehicle and rescue the infant, who was suffering from dehydration and in extreme distress.

The child was rushed to a nearby medical centre for treatment.

Since that fateful day Oranga Tamariki had become involved in the care of her offspring.

Judge Connell said it was apparent from her first appearance in court that Palu was extremely remorseful for her lapse in care.

“It’s been a sad period of time for you. I don’t think you deliberately neglected this child. You simply got carried away with your addiction.

“You have been living with a sense of grief over what you have done. You have endured some public derision and people abusing you for what you have done.”

Taking steps to combat her problems and avoid a repeat of that situation was laudable, the judge said.

“I admire you for that.”

Bhardwaj said Palu was employed full time, and community detention would allow her to continue bringing an income into her household.

She is described on court documents as a process worker.

She had plead guilty at the earliest opportunity and had attended a restorative justice meeting with family members.

Her “dereliction of duty” was accepted said Bhardwaj, although he had found documentation that showed the temperature in Hamilton on that day was 19 degrees and not 22, as stated on the police summary.

“It has been a learning curve for her. She knows she has been lucky to avoid prison.”

Staff who spoke to Stuff at the time of the incident said they believed Palu had won $500 on the pokies at the time of the incident, which she had cashed in.



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