High Court ruling allows con-woman to be named

March 21, 2017 | By More

Name suppression has lifted on an accomplished con-woman, Ann-Marie Kathrine Smith, after her appeal to the High Court fizzled today.

Smith appeared briefly in the courtroom, spoke to her defence counsel and handed him some papers, but then left the Court House before the hearing began.

Smith, also known as Anna-Ria Melroy, and Anne Marie Fraser Smith, 30, can now be named as the woman who admitted two charges of obtaining money by deception from two woman victims. In one case, she met a stranger at a bank and within a short period she told her such a story of family misfortune that she managed to convince her to loan her $3000.

She has received previous publicity for amassing more than $40,000 in rent arrears and bond money owed to several landlords, including Housing New Zealand, in the five years to 2016.

She was then arrested in May 2016 on two charges obtaining money by deception, and pleaded not guilty. She switched those pleas to guilty at a case review hearing on January 24.

There had been no previous name suppression but she made a belated bid to have an interim order made when she realised that a reporter was present who was intending to report the case.

Judge Gary MacAskill ruled that there were no grounds for the suppression to be granted, but Smith immediately filed her own papers for an appeal to the High Court which meant the non-publication order remained in place in the meantime.

The appeal hearing came before Justice Rachel Dunningham in the High Court two weeks ago. New defence counsel Glenn Henderson said he had received no instructions from Smith until the hearing was beginning, but he said there could be grounds for suppression because of extreme hardship to a family member and an adjournment was granted to today.

Mr Henderson did not hear from Smith during the adjournment and the documents he expected did not arrive. He told Justice Nick Davidson today that he had expected Smith to provide him with documents from the Canterbury District Health Board, Hillmorton Hospital, her doctor, and the Child Youth and Family service.

Just before today’s hearing, Smith had arrived and given him a doctor’s certificate about mental health and self-harm issues but it did not cover the matters on which he needed to present detailed evidence.

He asked for another adjournment to give Smith a further chance to present an application based on “extreme hardship to a family member” if her name was published.

Justice Davidson said Mr Henderson was “battling on in an engaging and determined way” but he did not believe that even if the documentary evidence was provided that it would meet the test for “extreme hardship” that would allow a suppression order to be made.

Crown prosecutor Chris Bernhardt said that although there was a possibility that the material might be made in future, the application seemed to be “relatively speculative”.

Justice Davidson said Smith had been given opportunities to present her application. “But something far more concrete and detailed would be needed to provide any weight to the argument advanced.” A recent medical certificate provided did not relate to the application before the court.

“Even the indication now given by Mr Henderson doesn’t demonstrate there is any substance in this appeal whatsoever and for that reason it is dismissed,” said the judge.

Police told the court in January, when Smith pleaded guilty, that on December 18, 2015, at 5.15pm she was in Kiwibank’s New Brighton branch, when she approached the woman victim who was at the counter addressing mail.

Smith said she needed money urgently but the bank would not give her a loan because she had no identification. She said her identification had been burnt in a house fire.

She said her heat pump had exploded that morning and she had been awoken by a explosion at her front door. She gave the victim a fictitious address.

Smith said she had two children. She said one child was badly burned in the fire and was in Christchurch Hospital awaiting transfer to Starship Hospital.

She said her father had died in the Canterbury earthquake, her mother had passed away in November 2015, and her grandmother had just died.

She told the woman she had found another house but had no money and had spent her last $500 on the bond, and the landlord required another $2300.

Police said: “The victim took pity on her and said she would give her the money. She went to the counter and withdrew $3000 cash to cover the bond and food and gave it to the defendant.”

The defendant said she would pay the victim back on Christmas Eve when her inheritance would come through. They exchanged contact details.

That night, Smith phoned the victim and told her she was at Christchurch Hospital with her child who needed to be flown to Australia for treatment and she didn’t have any money. However, she did not ask for more money and the victim didn’t offer any.

On December 20, the victim received a text from the defendant saying she would give her all the money back in a few days. More than a year on, the victim had received no money.

When spoken to by the police, she confirmed she had been at the bank and the woman had given her $3000. But she denied the woman’s account and said the victim had told lies. She said she intended to pay the money back.

On March 11, 2016, Smith went to a woman’s house in Woolston, where she talked about a trip to Rarotonga. She said she had found cheap flights, and the woman gave her a cheque for $495 to pay for part of the flights.

The defendant cashed the cheque but bought no tickets. Instead, she paid the money to associates. The victim has not heard from her since. When interviewed by the police, Smith said what she had done was wrong and she was embarrassed.

Smith is on bail and is due for sentencing on the fraud charges on April 12.

 

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