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Legal case

Claimant jailed for seven months for contempt of court

The NHS Trust brought committal proceedings against Mr Williams with regard to the personal injury claim.

In a contempt hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice Mr Williams, has been sentenced to seven months imprisonment after admitting he fabricated an accident at work to bring a claim for compensation. Weightmans acted on behalf of the NHS trust, under instructions from NHS Resolution.

Background

Mr Williams brought a claim in the EL/PL Portal for personal injury following an alleged slipping accident at work. The alleged accident was reported to the NHS trust and liability was admitted at a pre-action stage as there was no evidence at the time to dispute his version of events. 

Following the alleged accident, Mr Williams had sought hospital treatment, consulted his GP on several occasions and underwent eight sessions of private physiotherapy, as well as being signed off work for several weeks. Supportive medical evidence was served indicating soft tissue injuries to his spine and elbow, as well as psychological symptoms. Mr Williams served a schedule of loss claiming damages for the injury alongside the cost of the physiotherapy treatment and interest. Mr Williams’ claim was settled within the Portal for the total sum of £5,010 plus costs of £1,868. Damages and costs were paid to his then personal injury solicitors.

After settlement of the claim, the defendant NHS trust received evidence in the form of text messages confirming that Mr Williams had staged the slipping accident in an attempt to defraud the NHS. 

The evidence was disclosed to his personal injury solicitors and some weeks later Mr Williams attempted to withdraw his claim. Shortly thereafter, his personal injury solicitors came off record and the monies which had been paid to them, but which had not yet been passed on to Mr Williams, were returned to the NHS trust.

The NHS Trust brought committal proceedings against Mr Williams with regard to the personal injury claim. It was argued that he was responsible for making or causing to be made false statements verified by a statement of truth contrary to CPR 32.14, and that his actions represented contempt by interference with the due administration of justice.

Outcome

At the hearing on 1 November 2021, Anne Whyte QC, sitting as a deputy judge of the High Court, found that Mr Williams had invented the circumstances of an accident at work and dishonestly alleged he had been injured during the accident. Mr Williams had made a series of dishonest representations about both the circumstances of the accident and alleged injuries, not only to his employer (the NHS trust) but to a number of medical professionals, his own solicitors and to the court. Mr Williams had signed or caused his personal injury solicitors to sign three statements of truth making false representations. Mr Williams also made an offer of settlement and his personal injury solicitors received a payment for damages and costs when he knew there was no truth to his claim.

In giving her judgment, Anne Whyte QC noted that Mr Williams had told detailed lies to his medical expert and maintained the fiction of the accident on several occasions to his GP. Mr Williams was found to have staged the accident and sought unnecessary medical treatment to obtain compensation to which he was not entitled. The judge found that there was a fundamental breach of trust and contract with the defendant’s employer, who were a publicly-funded NHS trust. Mr Williams also caused his personal injury solicitors to make false statements supported by a statement of truth and verified his own statement of truth which he knew to be entirely untrue. Mr Williams’ conduct was found to be intentional at every step, which the judge deemed was extremely serious, particularly given the volume and frequency of dishonest representations made.

The judge confirmed that the relatively modest value of the claim did not remove the seriousness of the contempt. Mr Williams also conceded that if the text messages had not been disclosed, he would have continued with the claim and received compensation. The judge concluded that Mr Williams had misled a public body and wasted public money and resources, and all of these factors meant his conduct was considered significant.

Mr Williams put forward arguments regarding mitigation, including his financial and personal circumstances, but after consideration of the same, was sentenced to seven months imprisonment. Due to the nature and scale of the contempt, the judge was not willing to consider suspending the sentence.

Discussion

This case sends out a stark message to potential claimants that the court will take matters of dishonesty extremely seriously. The relative low value of the claim did not take away from the scale and seriousness of the contempt against a publicly-funded body. Despite Mr Williams’ arguments regarding mitigation, the court confirmed it would be failing in its duty to the public by not imposing an immediate custodial sentence. These proceedings should not deter genuine claimants, as the NHS trust and NHS Resolution will continue to ensure that those who have suffered injury because of a genuine accident on NHS premises are properly compensated. The NHS trust and NHS Resolution do not take decisions to commence committal proceedings lightly, but given the clear evidence obtained against the defendant, a former employee, it felt this was appropriate action.

Weightmans’ counter fraud group are market leaders who work in partnership with our clients to identify claimant behaviours and devise litigation strategies to tackle fraudulent behaviours at the early stages of a claim and where necessary, through the courts. Our approach is simple but effective, using proven techniques and technologies to detect fraud, challenge through delivery and then deter those who perpetrate it, whether they be individuals, fraud rings, solicitors, or companies.

If there is anything you want to discuss or if you require any further assistance relating to the issues raised, please contact our Counter Fraud team.

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