Re: Winter 2013/14 - Page 81

medical experts saw the videos, they realised that Mrs Fari had misled them and prepared a revised report stating that the claimant had significantly exaggerated her disability. Application to Strike out The local authority applied to the Court in October 2012, arguing that Mrs Fari’s dishonesty was so wide that her claim should be struck out. Following Summers –v- Fairclough Homes Ltd [2012], (In short, the Supreme Court considered the question of whether a claimant lose the right to a genuine claim through having fraudulently exaggerated the extent of it? They decided that it was theoretically possible, but only in limited and exceptional circumstances.)  the Court considered that it now had the power to strike out a statement of case on the basis that it was an abuse of the Court’s power, even when the claimant was in principle entitled to damages. (The Court had also assessed the true value of the claim at only £1,500). That power was to be exercised only where it was just and proportionate to do so. Here, it was. The only appropriate order in this case was to strike out the claim in its entirety. As the local authority had previously indicated that they would pursue contempt of Court proceedings, the Judge transferred the matter to the High Court, commenting that it would take a few committals for litigants in personal injury claims to realise that such an approach would not be tolerated. Committal proceedings In January 2013, the local authority applied to the High Court to bring committal proceedings against both Mrs Fari and her husband, who in turn, argued that the application should be refused. They denied the allegations and stated that the video recordings were not representative of her disabilities. The Court considered the history of the litigation, the remarkable difference between Mrs Fari’s account of her disabilities and what the videos apparently showed, the huge difference between the true value of the claim and what she had sought and established that there was a strong prima facie case. Despite Mrs Fari having lost all of her claim when it was struck out, being held liable for costs and both her and her husband suffering embarrassing negative publicity; there was a strong public interest in pursuing false claims and for them to be investigated by the Court. In the circumstances, committal proceedings were a proportionate course for the Court to take and the application was granted. Contempt of Court The Court considered the charges of contempt against Mrs Fari and her husband in October 2013. In her case, the charges related to signing a witness statement and schedules of loss which contained false statements as to the extent of her injuries and disability and for deliberately exaggerating the extent of those symptoms to medical experts. Her husband was charged with dishonestly assisting her and for making similar false statements, especially in respect of care. Mrs Fari, who was illiterate, again denied contempt and blamed her solicitors by saying that she had relied on their advice and had signed her witness statement and the schedules of loss – which she admitted contained false statements – without knowing their full contents. In addition, she had wanted to settle for less than £750,000, but her solicitors had encouraged her to carry on as her claim was worth more. Apparently, the medical experts had also misunderstood what she was saying. She meant to say that she only suffered increased disability for around four or five months and not that she was still suffering as a result of the accident. Her husband denied supporting his wife in exaggerating any injuries. He claimed tha t he had signed the witness statement, which he also admitted contained false assertions, but without reading it and not knowing what it was. The Judgment is useful to consider, as it neatly summarises the exaggerated and fraudulent behaviour of both and acts as a warning before signing a statement of truth: w Although Mrs Fari could not read, she was informed of the contents of the schedules of loss and could not argue that she did not know what her claim consisted of. As she was the one who had given instructions, it was safe and proper to infer that the false statements in the schedules, which had been verified by statements of truth, came from her. Contempt of Court was proved against her in that regard. e could the Court accept that Neither Mrs Fari knew nothing of the contents of her witness statement, as again it had been prepared on the basis of her instructions and accurately reflected what she had said. By verifying evidence that she knew to be false in her witness statement with a statement of truth, she had committed contempt of Court. As for her husband, it was impossible to accept that he did not know that he was signing a witness statement, or that he was unaware of its contents. He was guilty of contempt in signing the document when he knew that it contained false assertions of fact. The application was granted but sentencing was adjourned. Sentencing q The Court decided that there was a serious and deliberate attempt by Mrs Fari to give the impression to the medical experts, both in her physical presentation and in what she said that she was more disabled than she actually was as a result of the accident. It was impossible to reconcile the information given to experts with the video evidence. It was not possible that all the experts had misunderstood Mrs Fari as saying that her mobility and disability continued to be affected. Her husband was complicit in his wife’s false presentation and supported it.  This clearly interfered with the administration of justice. Contempt of Court was proven against both of them. On 8 November 2013, Mrs Fari and her husband were sentenced for contempt of Court. Mrs Fari was given the minimum possible sentence of three months’ imprisonment, which took into account that no damages had been paid out as a result of her fraud and that she had been in the media spotlight, which was part of the punishment for such conduct. Mr Fari had foolishly allowed himself to be involved in his wife’s deceit and had played his part in the pretence to help inflate her claim, one which was sufficiently serious to justify a sentence of two months’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months to enable him to look after the family while Mrs Fari was in prison. The couple, who were legally aided, were also ordered to pay £100,000 in costs. By Michael Mulcare 79