Horwich Farrelly has secured the first contempt of court ruling for Zurich and the City of Cardiff Council which has led to an eight month imprisonment of a fraudster who tried to claim for a car accident that he was not involved in.
Kevin Hooper was found guilty of contempt of court at Cardiff High Court on 24 June after claiming that he was involved in a motor accident in March 2014 in the city at the city’s Ely roundabout. A collision between a council vehicle and a VW Transporter had taken place on the day in question at that location. There was no question about liability, and the resulting insurance claims were swiftly settled.
However, six months later Zurich received personal injury claims from four men – one of which was Mr Hooper – stating that they too had been passengers in the VW. After Zurich revisited the statements provided by the council’s employee and the driver of the VW, the insurer realised that the four men could not have been involved in the accident.
Hooper was the only one who had brought proceedings but when evidence was put to him, he discontinued his claim.
Representing the City of Cardiff Council and its insurer Zurich, Horwich Farrelly applied to the court for permission to commence committal proceedings. In response, Hooper blamed his solicitor for submitting the claim without his knowledge or authorisation.
Soon after, his defence unravelled after his own solicitor produced a witness statement that the claimant had signed as well as a telephone recording of Hooper talking about the claim in detail.
Hooper disputed the evidence, saying that an imposter was on the call recording and that he was illiterate, and had believed the statement that he had signed related to another accident which had taken place on the same day at the same location.
Medical records provided no suggestion of illiteracy and he could not produce any evidence from the driver of the vehicle to confirm that he was a passenger.
Finally, Hooper was unable to provide details of one of his co-claimants to back up his case, saying he had lost contact and had even hired a private investigator to try and track him down. Investigations by Horwich Farrelly revealed the co-claimant was, in fact, his long-term partner’s nephew.
High Court Judge Hickinbottom and Court of Appeal Judge Elias found Hooper to be guilty of contempt.
“You have failed to face your dishonesty and instead have been dodging and weaving. You have sought to embroider your account as the evidence has strengthened,” said Judge Elias.
“Fraudulent claims are very widespread. They are very damaging to the insurance industry. They are very difficult to detect. They affect the insurance premiums of honest motorists. The Court has to accordingly take a strong line.”
Ronan McCann, Counter Fraud Partner at Horwich Farrelly, said that the sentence showed how seriously the court treated contempt of court.
“Mr Hooper’s persistent dishonesty gave the court no option but sentence him to eight months in prison,” he said.
“A custodial sentence was inevitable in this case and it needs to be seen as a deterrent for anyone who is looking to make false allegations.”
Scott Clayton, head of claims fraud investigation at Zurich, said that the insurer would always fight fraud “in all its guises”.
“Yet again we see people trying to claim money to which they have no entitlement. I’m glad the processes we have in place as an industry have been able to work together so well here. We need to make it as clear as we can to people that there’s no point in them trying it on.”