Poker players who had their stake money seized by the PSNI were reminded “not to take the law into their own hands,” by a Judge on Wednesday.
The warning came after two brothers, Paul Christopher, 50 and Terence Quinn, 42 were convicted of running an illegal poker game. The siblings were handed conditional discharges for two years. No order was made on the £20,000 “stake money” seized during the raid in December 20, 2010.
Derry Magistrate’s Court heard how both brothers had faced the wrath of some gamblers who had their stake money confiscated during a PSNI raid on The River Club. The game had been organised by the brothers and was described in court as a “modest enough activity.”
When police raided they discovered “a large number of people playing a Texas Hold ‘em Poker Tournament.” A total of £24,000 was seized as were a number of computers, playing cards and CCTV equipment.
The pair had initially claimed their prosecution was an “abuse of process,” this was changed to a guilty plea at Wednesday’s Magistrate’s sitting.
Solicitor for the Quinn brothers said: “The pair didn’t think they were doing anything illegal.”
Police had visited the John Street premises on a number of occasions but no prosecutions were ever brought.
Referring to a PSNI internal email about the club and the raid, which stated: “I’m not really sure what to do now,” the Quinns’ solicitor said: “If the PSNI were confused as to the legality of the club, then my clients can be forgiven for the same.
“My clients have been upfront and open with police from they first raided the club, they made full admissions and any evidence would be based on their own admissions during interview.”
The court, sitting under District Judge Barney McElholm, heard how Terence Quinn had suffered due to the seizure of money: “He has suffered three incidents of criminal damage, had his wife’s wheelchair stolen, his son was approached in the street by an angry gambler and has not been able to live in his own home.
“Your Honour has heard from one man (previously) who is irate at the money seizure, my clients have heard from many.”
Summarising Judge Barney McElholm said: “First let’s make it clear that all money seized by police is still held by police. The defendants do not have any of it. It is reprehensible for anyone to threaten the Quinns.
“There was clearly some degree of confusion not just in the minds of the Quinns but in the minds of various people. It is essentially a licensing matter, there is nothing evil in playing poker the difficulty is when people develop an addiction so the law steps in to regulate gambling.”
Paul Quinn, of 15 Amelia Court and Terence Quinn of Clipper Quay were handed conditional discharges.