Fraudster's brazen lie to judge in defence of his mate lands him jail sentence of almost two years

By Rob Kidd

A fraudster seems to have made history with his testimony to the Alexandra District Court in March. Photo / File
A fraudster seems to have made history with his testimony to the Alexandra District Court in March. Photo / File

A notorious fraudster who lied to a judge in court, in what is thought to be the first case of its kind, has been jailed for nearly two years.

In March, Nicholas Birch (29) stood up in the Alexandra District Court during the sentencing of burglar Fletcher Dennis and told the court his boss - a "successful businessman, horse trainer and philanthropist" - had offered a job to the man and they would pay $30,000 in reparation and fines he owed.

It was all a lie.

After the sentencing, police investigated Birch's claims and he was charged with making a false statement, which he later admitted.

Meanwhile, his hollow words had seen Dennis have six months shaved off his sentence by Judge Michael Crosbie.

"It appears to be the first time a case like this has come before the court," defence counsel Len Andersen told the Dunedin District Court today.

Judge Kevin Phillips confirmed he had looked at higher court decisions for guidance in the sentencing hearing and was stumped.

"I can't find any authority where someone has bare-face-lied to a judge," he said.

"There hasn't been someone such as you who had the temerity to stand in front of a sentencing judge and shamelessly lie and lie and lie."

The court heard Birch and Dennis had met while cell mates - something that was not disclosed to Judge Crosbie at the March sentencing.

Andersen said his client was left "high and dry" when Dennis failed to follow through on what Birch claimed was a legitimate offer of work and turned to drugs instead.

Judge Phillips said the incident at Alexandra was clearly premeditated.

"This is not something that he just thought up on the day ... It looks like it was done in the cells at OCF [Otago Corrections Facility]," he said.

"There was a deliberate lie to a District Court judge. It strikes at the very heart of the process."

Birch was also before the court on three counts of driving while disqualified - having been convicted of the offence at least three times in the past.

All three charges came within a six-week span from August last year.

Andersen told the court the defendant had hired a driver to get him around while he was banned but on one trip to Christchurch in October the chauffeur allegedly deserted him.

Birch was stopped while driving back to Dunedin.

Judge Phillips said that excuse did not match up to what he told police when he was pulled over.

Birch gave a false name and claimed he had never previously been involved with the police.

In truth, the 29-year-old has racked up close to 100 convictions.

The judge said Birch had brought the entire legal process into disrepute and "held the court and judicial system up to ridicule".

He was jailed for one year 11 months and banned from driving for 15 months.

- Otago Daily Times

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