Judge jails poster-boy for fraud


File image. © Andrew Bardwell

Photographs of Kim Michael David Barwell should be plastered on the noticeboards at every shopping mall and supermarket, with the message: “You should not give money to this man.”

That was the wish of Christchurch District Court Judge Jane Farish, as she called him a “public menace” and jailed him for four years one month.

He will serve 22 months as a non-parole term before he can be considered for release by the Parole Board on 60 charges of scamming an elderly man out of $91,000.

It means the fraudster could technically be considered for release soon, since he has already served 24 months in custody on remand.

When he stood in the dock for sentencing today, the confidence trickster had run out of tricks.

He had delayed his hearings time after time.

He had had two sentencing indication hearings when judges told him what sentence he would get if he pleaded guilty, and he asked for a third. The indications got longer as time went by.

He tried four times for bail and electronically monitored bail, and appealed that refusal in the High Court.

He changed lawyers, and he finally pleaded guilty on the eve of his trial on charges of obtaining money by deception.

Now he has written a letter of apology to the victim, who will not get his money back, and a letter to the judge.

However, Judge Farish brushed aside Barwell’s claim that he was repaying the money he was “borrowing” from the 84-year-old victim, saying it was ludicrous. While he was paying the money back at $25 a week, he was still borrowing more – sometimes thousands of dollars a week.

Judge Farish calculated that it would have taken 75 years to repay all the money back to the man at $25 a week. In total, $750 was repaid before his arrest.

Defence counsel Anselm Williams said that Barwell was making repayments but he accepted that paying it all back was a “pipe-dream”. “He accepts that access to the money got in the way of reality.”

Prosecutor Chris Lange said that the guilty pleas saved the elderly victim having to go through a stressful trial.

Judge Farish said that at age 52, Barwell had 58 pages of previous convictions, including 328 for obtaining by deception and 50 for other dishonesty offences. Different types of sentences had never changed his behaviour. He was a recidivist fraud offender and a public menace.

He meets people in public places, upset and with tales of family problems, car breakdowns or lack of petrol, and convinces them to hand over cash.

He had met the latest elderly victim at Bishopdale shopping mall, greeting him like an old friend. The man, who has cognitive and memory lapses, did not recognise him but thought he might have forgotten. He accepted Barwell’s story of a motor accident and loaned him $650 he got from an ATM.

With tales of woes and calamities over the next six months, Barwell extracted $91,000.

The man had earlier had a Lotto win of more than $100,000. He said he was honest and trusting and would give the shirt off his back to a stranger in need. He told Barwell in his victim impact statement: “You almost destroyed me. You took away my trust and my savings, and more.”

He said he and his wife should have been enjoying their remaining years in retirement, but they were worried they would become homeless and had to remortgage their property. Their health had been affected.

Judge Farish said she was sorry that Barwell’s son had passed away while he was in custody and he had been unable to attend the funeral. “If that is a catalyst for change for you then that may redeem you, in terms of preventing you from reoffending.”

But she said he was a high risk offender.

“Your image should be posted at every shopping mall and supermarket where you have preyed on vulnerable people, with a big notice saying, ‘You should not give money to his man’.”

That was the way to keep the public safe, she said.



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