Friday, 24 October 2014

Exaggerated injury claim leaves mother facing 'likely' prison sentence

After exaggerating an injury in a bid to claim £750,000 compensation from a housing organisation, a mother of 13 and her husband are facing ‘likely’ prison sentences.

Lawyers for Homes for Haringey told the High Court that Barbara Fari had lied about how badly she was hurt when she tripped on uneven paving and twisted her right knee in May 2008.

The organisation, which manages council housing in the north London borough, admitted liability and offered Ms Fari £7,500 but she pursued a larger claim.

It was only struck out by a judge in October 2012 after video evidence revealed a huge difference between how she presented at medical examinations and when she was out and about near her home in Lightfoot Road, Hornsey.

Jennifer Harris, Homes for Haringey’s solicitor, said: ‘This decision sends the strongest possible message to anyone tempted to exaggerate a personal injury claim. The justice system will not tolerate it and the claimant risks losing not just compensation but also their liberty.

‘It was a landmark decision by an earlier court to strike out the entirety of Barbara Fari’s claim. Today’s ruling reinforces that decision.

‘The fact that both Mr and Ms Fari face a potential custodial sentence sends a stark warning to those tempted to inflate their claims and anyone who helps them to do so.’

Today, Mr Justice Spencer ruled that Ms Fari and her husband, Piper, were both in contempt of court and warned that she was likely to be going to prison unless he was persuaded otherwise at another hearing at the end of next week.

Ms Fari claimed that the fall had aggravated her pre-existing arthritis to the point where she was no longer able to look after her large family and instead relied on their care.

The couple denied contempt and Ms Fari, who is illiterate, said that she relied on the advice of solicitors and simply signed documents which were not explained properly.

She claimed medical experts misinterpreted what she told them and that the compensation offer of £7,500 would have suited her.

But, the judge said that she had presented a ‘grossly false’ picture of her continuing symptoms to doctors and legal documents and that her unemployed husband of 27 years was complicit in the charade.

The judge said the surveillance evidence was the key to arriving at the truth.

Even making allowances for someone with existing arthritis having good and bad days, it was impossible to reconcile the apparently sprightly Mrs Fari of the videos near her home with the badly crippled woman who attended medical examinations.

Near her home she never used a stick, let alone a crutch, walked to the shops on her own and negotiated a steep gradient without undue difficulty.

Rejecting her claim that she was misunderstood by medical experts, he said: ‘All three doctors cannot have made the same mistake.’

Next week, the judge will hear medical reports and character references relating to the couple, who were both of previous good character.

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