Inspector Bryson Anderson Photo: Kylie Pitt, Hawkesbury Gazette Police conduct a search of the property in Oakville, north-west Sydney, where Inspector Bryson Anderson was fatally stabbed in December 2012. Photo: Mick Tsikas
Mitchell Barbieri pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Photo: Seven News
Living in squalor on an isolated rural property in Sydney’s north-west, Mitchell Barbieri and his psychotic mother believed the world was out to get them.
Police found notebooks and diaries in their Oakville house, filled with letters to the Pope, Russian President Vladimir Putin, state and federal politicians and TV presenters.
“They existed in an isolated, compromised state emotionally, materially and ultimately as a pair who believed they were both being persecuted in an elaborate global manner,” a psychiatrist found.
When the Barbieris began a violent confrontation with their neighbours on December 6, 2012, and police surrounded their home, one or both emailed politicians to say “corrupt” officers were trying to break in.
Mitchell Barbieri, then 19, murdered Inspector Bryson Anderson when he tried to intervene, stabbing the admired senior officer in the cheek and chest.
Paramedics heard Barbieri say: “Let the copper c— die. F— him.”
He pleaded guilty to murder in 2014 and was sentenced to at least 26 years’ jail, with a maximum term of 35 years.
His mother, Fiona Barbieri, pleaded guilty to manslaughter, and was jailed for at least 7½ years.
Barbieri appealed against his sentence, in part arguing the sentencing judge did not properly consider his mental illness, which was “a transferred delusional disorder” influenced by this mother’s paranoid schizophrenia.
In a majority decision, the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal on Monday slashed 11 years from his sentence, giving him a new non-parole period of 15 years and a maximum term of 21 years and three months.
There was silence in the courtroom as the judges announced their decision, but the Anderson family soon expressed their torment.
“We came here today and were – to use my father’s words – kicked in the guts,” Inspector Anderson’s brother, Warwick Anderson, said outside court.
“How any informed member of the community could possibly think a sentence of 15 years for someone who stabs to death a policeman who turns up to help other people is what the community expects is absolutely beyond belief.”
NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said he had written to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Lloyd Babb, SC, asking him to consider an appeal in the High Court.
The appeal judgment said Barbieri had delusional beliefs under the guidance of his mother, whom a psychiatrist described as being “powerful, charismatic and psychotic”.
Justice Carolyn Simpson found the judge erred in considering Barbieri’s “plainly severe” mental illness secondary to his mother’s.
She noted evidence the Barbieris considered themselves to be asylum seekers, and asked for Russian consular assistance after their arrest.
“The evidence I have set out … demonstrates the extent to which the applicant’s involvement with Fiona Barbieri and her dominance over him impacted on his mental condition,” Justice Simpson said, in a judgment agreed to by Justice Lucy McCallum.
The judgment said that, while it was important that sentencing acted as a deterrence, Barbieri’s case was not the appropriate vehicle to do so.
The dissenting judge, Justice Derek Price, said it was open to the sentencing judge to find Barbieri knew what he was doing, and was aware of the “wrongfulness of his actions”.
Barbieri will be eligible for parole in 2034.