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Legal case

Weightmans secure permission to bring committal proceedings against claimant who discontinued a large credit hire claim in the County Court

The committal proceedings grounds all related to making knowingly false statements and interfering with the due administration of justice.

Metroline Ltd v Araujo 2021 WL 01806593 (2021)

Weightmans secured what might have been the first bent metal/credit hire conviction for contempt of court in Tuffnells Parcels Express Limited v John Vernon and now, in a case with similar features, we have just been given permission to pursue committal proceedings against another claimant.

Mr Araujo brought a claim in the County Court for credit hire and vehicle related losses in excess of £50,000 following a minor rear end collision. Liability was not in dispute however he alleged that his bike had been knocked to the ground as a result of the collision resulting in his vehicle being declared a write off. He also claimed for a replacement helmet and damaged phone, caused as a result of the accident.

CCTV footage revealed that the motorbike did not fall to ground and that it was driven away. The claimant prevented an inspection of the motorbike by stating that it had been sold for salvage, whereas defendant’s surveillance footage revealed that it remained outside his house and that repairs had been carried out.

Mr Araujo attempted to change his evidence following disclosure of the surveillance footage, before finally discontinuing his claim.

In Metroline Ltd v Araujo 2021 WL 01806593 (2021), Metroline sought permission in the High Court to bring committal proceedings against Mr Araujo on six grounds all related to making knowingly false statements and interfering with the due administration of justice.

The High Court accepted that credit hire charge claims could take a great deal of a district judge's time and it was plainly in the public interest to prevent claims being brought on false grounds. False claims distorted the entire judicial process, and the time and money spent on them could be substantial. Given the very real public benefit in sending out a clear message, the time and costs involved in bringing committal proceedings was proportionate. The Court concluded that there was a strong prima facie case in respect of all six alleged incidences of contempt and (in a nod to the Court of Appeal’s findings in the Weightmans case of Zurich Insurance Plc v Romaine [2019] EWCA Civ 851) that the claimant’s discontinuance was not a reason in itself to refuse permission to bring the contempt proceedings.

Read the full judgment report.

We will update you with the outcome in due course, but in the meantime, if your business faces similar challenges with suspected credit hire fraud, or you are considering suitable deterrents in cases where you know fraud has been committed, please contact Jeff Turton or Karim Ariane, Associate, at karim.ariane@weightmans.com or by telephone on 0151 243 3313.

If you require any assistance, contact our motor insurance solicitors.

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