Jail time reduced for Christchurch businessman who duped elderly widow out of $20k

Nigel Thompson. Photo: Supplied
Nigel Thompson. Photo: Supplied
A businessman with more than 100 convictions for dishonesty offending including duping an elderly widow of $20,000 and ripping off a church has had his jail term reduced.

Nigel Terrance William Thompson, 49, has managed to shave seven months off a prison sentence imposed earlier this year, after successfully arguing it was “manifestly excessive”.

Thompson was jailed for three years and seven months when he appeared in Christchurch District Court in July on a raft of dishonesty charges relating to offending in 2018 and 2019.

During his sentencing, Thompson insisted he was remorseful and asked the judge for various discounts.

“I would like full discount on my guilty pleas. I would like a significant discount for the efforts I’ve made in paying reparation, your honour,” he told the judge at the time.

In September, Thompson took his case to the High Court at Christchurch, appealing the prison sentence, claiming the starting point of six years adopted by sentencing Judge Mark Callaghan was “too high”.

Police opposed the appeal, stating the sentence was appropriate and rejecting the idea that the starting point was manifestly excessive.

In a decision released today, Justice Anne Hinton compared Thompson’s case to a range of others and decided a starting point of five years rather than six was justified.

Justice Hinton allowed Thompson’s appeal and quashed his previous sentence, replacing it with one of three years imprisonment.

During Thompson’s sentencing, he attempted to have the matter adjourned, claiming he was not given proper legal help and the court was not provided with a cultural report.

He also wanted to vacate some of his guilty pleas, stating he wouldn’t have pleaded guilty to some of the charges had he known a custodial sentence was likely.

When he was sentenced, the court heard Thompson had 104 previous dishonesty convictions spanning from 1995 to 2002.

A victim impact statement from the 90-year-old widow who Thompson befriended and stole $20,000 from said he “shattered my faith in humanity”.

Thompson introduced himself to her as “John” and valeted her car and the pair formed a friendship. The woman became involved in his family’s life, buying them gifts and cooking them meals.

He would visit her at her retirement village at least twice a week, she said in her victim impact statement.

But after returning home from an overseas holiday she discovered her bank account was overdrawn, leaving her “shocked and distressed”.

She told Thompson, unaware it was him behind the theft, and said she was going to the police.

The woman then received a phone call from someone claiming to be a bank employee. They told her there had been a bank error leading to the unexplained withdrawals and it would be sorted.

That person called her every day for a week, telling her not to go to her local bank as it was now a “head office” matter. She later found out it was Thompson behind the calls.

She was “devastated” to learn that not only had she lost a significant amount of money but it had been taken by someone she considered a friend. She felt embarrassed and gullible.

“He shattered my faith in people and left me wondering if I can ever trust [others]. I feel used and betrayed.”

After the woman discovered the truth about Thompson, he continued to contact her through phone and email but did not once apologise.

The contact was so persistent, she felt emotionally blackmailed and had to block him.

Her Christian faith was tested, she told the court, but said she hoped to one day forgive him.

Thompson also stole from a church, a man who was leasing his property to Thompson, and his own business multiple times.

During his sentencing Thompson said he “got too big too quick” and when things in his life began to fall apart, he turned to offending.

“It just snowballed your honour and I couldn’t control it. No matter what I did it just got worse.”

By Emily Moorhouse
Open Justice multimedia journalist