One Insurance Ltd -v- Beasley
Case No: G91NG313
In the High Court sitting at Nottingham
20 October 2020
His Honour Judge Godsmark QC (Sitting as a Judge of the High Court)
One Insurance Ltd
His Honour Judge Godsmark QC:
1. I have seen a number of cases in my time as a judge where Claimants seek to obtain damages for personal injury by exaggerating or fabricating their circumstances. This is one of the most blatant.
2. On 8 December 2014 Mr Beasley was involved in a road traffic accident. He was driving a DAF lorry, which was in collision with a Skoda motor car. What started as a relatively modest claim escalated significantly.
3. The claim grew and included claims of injuries to shoulder, neck, back with widespread pain to the right side of the body and in addition Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The presentation by Mr Beasley to the medical legal experts in the case was of someone seriously debilitated.
4. By 2019 Mr Beasley was attending such medical appointments in a wheelchair and complaining of pain to such an extent that meaningful medical examinations were almost impossible. There was a claim for the sum of £100,000 for the loss of earnings and that was before a care claim and damages for pain suffered from loss of amenity.
5. That claim was largely, if not entirely, a sham and Mr Beasley was in truth perfectly capable of going out and about, of driving, of lifting substantial weights into and out of his car. The presentation that was made at the medico-legal appointments in a wheelchair was also a sham.
6. A wheelchair was hired on two occasions in order to be used for attendance at the medical appointments and then returned thereafter. The reason that one can say that this is such a blatant false claim is because of the surveillance evidence. That evidence is devastating.
7. There is video evidence of Mr Beasley presenting on examination where he is frankly, as one views the video, a wreck. One contrasts that with video surveillance from minutes before that appointment, on his way to it. He is seen at his vehicle on a hill in Nottingham where the wheelchair is unloaded from the back of the vehicle, he sets it up, gets into the wheelchair and is pushed to the medical appointment by his wife.
8. Indeed, the following their time at the examination one sees the reverse performance. Him getting up and putting the wheelchair back of the vehicle.
9. There is also surveillance evidence of Mr Beasley lifting substantial weights at a garden centre by way of large bags of topsoil. On disclosure of the surveillance evidence the personal injury claim collapsed and a finding of fundamental dishonesty was made and Mr Beasley was ordered to pay the sum of £60,000 in costs.
10. The feigning of injury was so blatant that proceedings for contempt of court were commenced and that is what the Court is hearing today. There are 22 specific allegations advanced as examples of dishonest behaviour in pursuit of his claim and to be fair to Mr Beasley, in my judgment the strongest point in his favour is that ever since this deceit was discovered he has admitted what he has done and not sought to make any case about them.
11. This remains a case where there is a blatant attempt to obtain damages through the legal process by deliberate exaggeration and fabrication. This is not a passive deceit, as I sometimes see, of an individual allowing themselves to be swept along in a claim which has been driven significantly or substantially by others.
12. This was a calculated deceit, planned and organised and involving what one of the medical legal experts described as a campaign to deceive medical experts. The gravity for such claims is that they seek to use the legal process as a means of fraud.
13. Other meritorious claims become subject to suspicion. The legal process is brought into disrepute and the Court of Appeal has made it clear that fraudulently pursued claims like this which end up with committal applications are likely to attract custodial sentences. That as a means of affording a deterrent to others.
14. In mitigation Mr Beasley is 76 years of age. As far as I am aware he has no record of any dishonesty in the past throughout those 76 years. As I have already indicated and to his credit, he has admitted this contempt once the evidence was before the Court.
15. There are concerns about the health of his wife, who was successfully treated for cancer last year. She is at hospital today for an appointment. Mr Beasley is concerned that there may be some recurrence. I have no evidence as to that. Any prison sentence imposed upon Mr Beasley in a time of COVID will be perhaps more onerous than at other times.
16. The nature of this fraud and the nature of the contempt is such that I have come to the conclusion that it is so serious that only a custodial sentence is appropriate. Bearing in mind the personal mitigation my starting point for the contempt would be a sentence of 9 months’ custody.
17. Given the immediate acknowledgement of the contempt and effectively the plea of guilty I can give a substantial discount on that sentence and reduce it to 26 weeks or 6 months. The question arises as to whether or not that sentence can then be suspended.
18. I have come to the conclusion that the nature of this contempt is such that I cannot suspend any sentence. The sentence will be concurrently in relation to each of the admitted contempts, a sentence of 26 weeks’ custody. Mr Beasley, you will serve up to half of that before you are eligible for release. Take him down, please.