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Fundamentally dishonest claimant committed for contempt of court in circumstances where he falsely claimed that he did not know a so-called independent witness - Paul Erdunast, Temple Garden Chambers

17/05/21. AXA Insurance UK PLC v Reid [2021] EWHC 993 (QB)

If you are advising a claimant in a case where there is an allegation of fundamental dishonesty, it is important in general to advise as to the possibility of being committed for contempt of court. However, such advice becomes more urgent if you are aware that a claimant in a factually analogous situation has in fact been committed for contempt. It is, of course, a matter for the defendant insurer as to whether they attempt to have an individual committed for contempt once they have been found fundamentally dishonest. Whether they do so will no doubt depend on their view of the gravity of the dishonesty, alongside other factors. This case is worth bearing in mind if you are advising someone where it is alleged that they in fact do know a witness who they are claiming is independent.

Relevant facts

Mr Reid been in a road traffic accident dated 29 January 2018. He made a claim for damages in which he stated in the witness statement that a Mr Summers was an independent witness. Contrary to his statement of truth, they did know each other. At the very least, Mr Reid trained Mr Summers for his first cage fight (Mr Summers went on to become a European and world kickboxing champion). Therefore his statement was not only untrue, but was untrue in such a way that it interfered with the course of justice in a material respect.

Mr Reid accepted, as he had to, that he made a witness statement signed with a statement of truth on 13 June 2019 that contained untruths that amounted to contempt of court.

The Court’s approach

Mrs Justice Eady quoted from the classic statement of Moses LJ in South Wales Fire and Service v Smith [2011] EWHC 1749 (Admin), which I reproduce in full because there should be no doubt as to how courts view contempt of court in cases such as the present...

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