A man who brought a fraudulent personal injury claim, and then tried to blame his solicitor for bringing the action without his knowledge, has been jailed for eight months for contempt of court.
Lord Justice Elias and Mr Justice Hickinbottom found Kevin Hooper, 48 of St Mellons, Cardiff, guilty after he claimed that he was involved in a motor accident in March 2014 after a council vehicle had collided with a VW Transporter. There was no question about liability, and the resulting insurance claims were settled.
However, six months later Zurich received personal injury claims from four men – including Mr Hooper – stating that they too had been passengers in the VW. After Zurich revisited the statements provided by the council’s employee and the driver of the VW, there was no possibility that the four men had been involved in the incident.
Mr Hooper was the only one who had brought proceedings, but, when evidence was put to him, he quickly discontinued his claim.
Horwich Farrelly applied to the court for permission to commence committal proceedings. In response, Mr Hooper sought to blame his solicitor for submitting the claim without his knowledge or authorisation.
However, the solicitor produced a witness statement that the claimant had signed as well as a telephone recording of Mr Hooper talking about the claim in detail and the alleged injuries sustained. Mr Hooper disputed the evidence by saying that it was an imposter on the call recording, that he was illiterate, and had believed the statement that he had signed related to another accident which had taken place on the same day at the same location.
Medical records provided no suggestion of illiteracy and he was unable to produce any evidence from the driver of the vehicle to confirm that he was a passenger. He also failed to provide details of one of his co-claimants to back up his case, saying he had lost contact and had even hired a private investigator to track him down, but without success.
Investigations by Horwich Farrelly then revealed that the co-claimant was, in fact, his long-term partner’s nephew.
Elias LJ said: “In the circumstances, you have not helped yourself. I have regard to the fact of the aggravating feature that you have failed to admit anything and have sought to blame your previous legal representatives…
“You have failed to face your dishonesty and instead have been dodging and weaving. You have sought to embroider your account as the evidence has strengthened. Fraudulent claims are very widespread. They are very damaging to the insurance industry. They are very difficult to detect. They affect the insurance premiums of honest motorists. The court has to accordingly take a strong line.”
Ronan McCann, counter-fraud partner at Horwich Farrelly, said: “A custodial sentence was inevitable in this case and it needs to be seen as a deterrent for anyone who is looking to make false allegations.”