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Contempt of Court: A Strong Message to the Opportunistic Fraudster - Caroline Sanders, DWF

30/09/16. A personal injury claimant who alleged his wrist injury had been caused by a trip on a raised kerbstone, has been found in contempt of court in respect of his personal injury claim against Surrey County Council and sentenced to a 12 month suspended custodial sentence. The Council, together with DWF, took a firm stance against the claimant when it was revealed that he had admitted to a friend on Facebook that he had been drinking and had in fact merely slipped in icy conditions. Caroline Sanders reviews the evidence in this case which stands to deter the opportunistic fraudster.

Background

Mr Wootton had pursued a personal injury claim against Surrey County Council, concerning an alleged tripping incident on 3 December 2010 on Napier Road, Staines which resulted in a fracture to his wrist. The defect identified was a raised kerbstone measuring just in excess of 1 inch. The case had proceeded as a standard highways tripping case with no fraud indicators at all, proceeding through to listing stage in unremarkable fashion.

Mr Wootton relied on his own evidence and supporting statements from two friends, Mr and Mrs Harris, who had been accompanying him home on the material evening. Mr Wootton gave a detailed account of his trip and the aftermath with both supporting witnesses confirming they saw him fall forward and that “there was nothing else [other than the raised kerbstone] that could have caused Mr Wootton to fall”. All three were at pains to stress that Mr Wootton had had only minimal alcohol and that he “was not a heavy drinker”. With alcohol consumption having not featured at all in the case before exchange of witness statements, DWF questioned this and undertook social media enquiries for any potential relevant content. It was from there, the civil claim unravelled...

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