A story has been widely reported which I expect warmed the heart of many a lawyer with experience of dealing with cases where it is suspected (and nothing more than that) that a claimant party was not telling the truth about the cause of an injury.
Whilst judges in the county court are often sometimes correctly criticised for being gallingly reluctant to make findings of bad faith in anyone, the same is only rarely said for their red-robed senior brethren in the High Court. Certainly not Rafferty LJ and Singh J in the recent case of London Borough of Havering v Marc Bowyer, James Jones and Richard Bowyer  EWHC 2237 (Admin).
Mark Bowyer put in a compensation claim against Havering Borough Council alleging the double fracture to his ankle was caused when he tripped over a pothole as he walked home in Hornchurch. It is reported the claim was pleaded for some £100,000. But Mr Bowyer was not telling the truth…
He actually broke his ankle when (in a state of some inebriation) he jumped off a wall after going to a party to watch England play Paraguay in the World Cup on 10 June 2006. He apparently did not expect that the most primitive of investigations as to his allegations would be undertaken by Havering BC. Whilst this underestimation may have had some foundation – as liability was initially conceded – in the subsequently obtained recording of the 3am 999 call James Jones, Mr Bowyer’s friend reported he had indeed ‘jumped off a wall’. The ambulance reports recorded that Mr Bowyer was found some considerable distance from the alleged offending pothole.
Four years later Mr Bowyer and/or his legal representatives clearly realised that there was a considerable “hole” in the evidence (or lack of one). Proceedings were eventually discontinued by Mr Bowyer in October 2010, however Havering BC brought proceedings for contempt of court.
In the Administrative Court last week Mr Bowyer pleaded guilty and on 27 July 2012, was jailed for two months. Mr Jones, who despite what he told the 999 operator, backed Mr Bowyers fraudulent claim also pleaded guilty and was jailed for one month. However Mr Bowyer’s father Richard Bowyer, who was found to be the principle driver of the claim, was jailed for four months after being found guilty of contempt of court.
Certainly, following on from the case of which I wrote about in March of this year it can only be a good thing that the courts send out the strongest possible messages in the form of stiff prison sentences to those expecting to be able to prosecute fraudulent claims. And “hats off” to Havering BC whose actions will hopefully “encourager les autres”!