A Whangarei mother who left her four scared young children home alone was arrested on a warrant and granted bail by two Justices of the Peace - despite instructions to the contrary by a judge.

Maraea Manu Gage, 24, failed to appear for sentencing in Whangarei District Court for the second time yesterday, forcing Judge Duncan Harvey to issue another warrant - after showing his displeasure at the state of affairs.

Police picked up Gage's four children, including an 8-month-old and a 6-year-old, from their Raumanga home after going there on an unrelated matter on May 10. The 6-year-old cradled her younger sister, watching a computer on which music was being played, and there was no food or heating in the dark, dirty house, lit only by the computer screen's glow.

Gage was to be sentenced on four charges of ill treatment/neglect of a child under 18 after earlier pleading guilty to the charges.

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In court yesterday, her lawyer, John Day, said he couldn't progress matters further because of her non-appearance. Judge Harvey said Gage first appeared on May 14 and was released on bail. On June 10, she pleaded guilty and was again released on bail to reappear for sentencing on August 1, but failed to turn up on that day.

A warrant was then issued by Judge Harvey who also ordered that upon her arrest she shouldn't be granted bail except by a District Court judge. But yesterday the judge said he was advised by court registry staff that Gage was arrested and had appeared in the Auckland District Court where two JPs granted her bail, despite his written order which was relayed to that court.

"It's no surprise she's not here. There's simply no proper explanation how this situation has arisen," Judge Harvey said.

He ordered that her sentencing must proceed before him when she is found.

The summary of facts Gage pleaded guilty to said on leaving her children alone, Gage had left them a bottle of milky tea, thick with sugar and a tea bag. She also left them with a toilet blocked with faeces, a bath full of dirty clothes and orders to not open the door to anyone. Her children were hungry and cold - the 8-month-old was filthy and in desperate need of a nappy change. No food was in the refrigerator.

Police found a packet of sausages in the freezer and rummaged up a loaf of bread and made toast for the children. Dirty blankets and empty bourbon and cola cans littered the floor. Two single beds had no linen. The children refused to open the door for police. One yelled "who is it" before they screamed for their mother. Police entered through an unlocked back door.

A neighbour helped tend and feed the children and change the 8-month-old after no baby-care products or baby food could be found in the house.