Ruthless to the core: This predator terrorised the vulnerable, skint and desperate

A vicious loan shark who targeted a mum and son has been jailed after his reign of terror finally came to an end.

Richard Dawson, 35, offered interest rates of 100% after one week, and 200% after two for customers who were desperate for money. Only two of his victims - a mum and son - came forward after both were attacked and the man kidnapped on a number of occasions, put into the boot of Dawson's car and taken to a cash machine where he was ordered to withdraw money.

Sheffield Crown Court heard on Thursday how Dawson became involved with the pair after the woman asked to borrow £5 for cider. Prosecutor Simon Mortimer said: "She was an alcoholic with mental health issues and he [Dawson] said he would lend money in the area and she would have to pay £10 back the week after.

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"She borrowed from him many times and would always pay cash. After £250 it had to be over bank transfer. She was trapped in a cycle of debt."

The woman's son then met Dawson through her and became "trapped" himself. Mr Mortimer said: "He would hand over all of his benefits - even if a small payment was due, Richard Dawson would use his bank card to get money. He assaulted him on or around the 8th May 2022.

"He didn't have the funds to pay him so he assaulted him, fracturing his jaw."

Part of the man's jaw "came away" and he ended up "pulling it through his cheek."

The court heard social services intervened and the mum and her son were relocated, but Dawson found out where they lived after "interrogating" the man. He punched him, resulting in two black eyes. The next day, Dawson went to the new address and assaulted both the man and woman.

Loan shark Richard Dawson has been jailed
Loan shark Richard Dawson has been jailed -Credit:South Yorkshire Police

Mr Mortimer said the woman's nephew was at the door, and when the man went to it, he "appeared and assaulted him, sending him off his feet." The prosecutor added: "He assaulted the woman, shouting, 'You f****** lying s***, you told me you wasn't moving until next week.'

"He kicked her, sending her backwards and she fell into the TV cabinet. The man was made to hand over £250 he had taken out of the bank."

Dad-of-three Dawson wanted more money and forced the man into his car boot and taken to a cashpoint and ordered to withdraw more money. He told the woman "if she said a f****** word, he would be stabbing her son in the neck," Mr Mortimer said.

He added: "It became common to put the man in the boot of the car to get money out."

The court heard following his arrest, a number of items were seized from Dawson's home, including his mobile phone. His and his wife's bank accounts showed evidence of money lending. Recorder Langdale KC said 124 cash credits totalling over £16,000 from 16 different people had been received from Dawson's.

On his wife's account, 106 transfers of over £11,000 were received from 59 people, and 119 payments of over £7,000 had been sent to 35 people. The judge said words such as "loan", "owe", "borrow" and "lend" were found on the accounts. He said there were "at least 88 different customers or people who were being terrorised" by Dawson "into paying off money."

He said repayments came to a total of £52,000.

Mr Mortimer said following police interviews with the victims, CCTV enquiries were undertaken and revealed a number of incidents where Dawson, of Hill End Close in Barnsley, let the man out of his boot, took something from him "consistent with bank notes" - and then let him back into the boot.

When he was arrested on suspicion of illegal money lending, Dawson said to police: "You can't take the word of a smackhead, I haven't done it, I have nothing to worry about."

Mr Mortimer said: "He admitted illegally lending money since his release in 2020. He admitted having the man in the boot of his car but said it was because he had needles. He said he usually has to have people in the boot of his car because of his children's cat seat. He said: 'I said I have been lending money, I'm not going to admit anything else."

The court heard he did not give his PIN to police, but earlier this week went on to admit unlawfully engaging in regulated acts - namely money lending when not authorised - between October 1, 2020, and February 19 this year and converting or concealing criminal property, namely money, between the same dates. Dawson also pleaded guilty to assault, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and kidnapping. All three offences took place in 2022 and 2023. Dawson was on licence for robbery at the time.

Mr Mortimer said he had previous offences including wounding on his record.

Sheffield Crown Court
Dawson assaulted the man and woman

Mitigating, Sean Fritchley said Dawson was in prison in 2020 and "couldn't have been threatening anyone during that time". He said: "He was on licence but recalled...It wasn't undertaken to fund a lavish lifestyle...

"When someone reads someone is being told to get in the boot of a car, it reads like something from The Sopranos. This was a people carrier and the man himself says he can see out of the windows and there was room in there. My client says he [the man] used to sit on a tyre. He says he would drive him to the cash machine to get the money."

The court was told Dawson had written the judge a letter but it had not made it from HMP Nottingham to the court with him. Mr Fritchley said: "He told me to say that he is deeply ashamed and he will have put that in the letter...My instructions are not to go any further than I have. He recognises his position..."

The judge jailed Dawson for seven years, and made him the subject of a restraining order against both victims. He said: "The prosecution's case is that you were a vicious loan shark. It is illegal to operate without authority from the FCA [Financial Conduct Authority]... These two [victims] are the only ones brave enough to come forward. You employed and used your partner to facilitate payments..."

The judge said the amounts found on the bank accounts "are very much the tip of the iceberg" and added: "It is clear those paying money into bank accounts were the minority. It was a cash-run business so the true amount will never be known...The interest rates were extortionate...Your victims initially refused treatment because they were petrified of you...

"Any right-thinking member of society will be disgusted by the way you treated human beings. You treated them as nothing more than walking cash machines to be used, abused and attacked at will and have their lives destroyed and treated by you as nothing less than human beings."

Following the sentencing, Tony Quigley, head of the Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “Today we have seen a vicious, predatory criminal removed from our streets and we hope this sends a message that illegal money lending and associated intimidation tactics will not be tolerated.

“This man is a ruthless and cruel individual who deliberately targeted the most vulnerable people in the community, taking everything they had and leaving them with nothing. He knew they couldn’t fight back and took advantage of that. When they struggled to pay, he lashed out, causing serious injuries. They may recover from those physical injuries but the mental torment he caused was enormous and they may never recover from the trauma they suffered at his hands.

He was serving time for a robbery at the time of the offences
Sheffield Crown Court -Credit:Katie Pugh

“Illegal money lending is a scourge on society; when it is accompanied by monstrous violence and physical intimidation like this it is even worse – and this is something we will not tolerate. The bravery shown by these individuals in coming forward, even though they were terrified of repercussions, is incredible. We can’t thank them enough for that.

“We realise other people may be in a similar position, but we would urge anyone who has any experience of illegal lending to contact us sooner rather than later so that we can take action to keep them safe and help them escape the grip of an illegal lender."

Anna Hartley, Barnsley Council’s Executive Director for Public Health and Communities, said: “This was an awful crime and we’re grateful to the England Illegal Money lending Team and South Yorkshire Police who worked closely with our own Safer Communities team in bringing this defendant to justice.

“It’s unacceptable to prey on those who suffer financial hardship and exploit them through threats and violence. We urge anyone with information about illegal money lending to reach out and report these criminals."