Lawyers representing social housing providers, Homes for Haringey (HH), argued that Barbara Fari had lied about how badly she was hurt after she tripped on uneven paving and twisted her right knee in May 2008.
HH had admitted liability and offered her £7,500 in settlement, but she had pursued a much more substantial claim which was struck out by a judge after covert video evidence revealed a striking difference between how she had presented during medico-legal examinations and when she was out and about near her home.
Both Mrs Fari and her husband, Piper, were found in contempt on the basis that she had presented a ‘grossly false’ picture of her continuing symptoms to doctors and in legal documents and that he had been complicit in the charade. Mr Fari received a two-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months.
Mrs Fari had claimed that the fall aggravated her pre-existing arthritis to the point where she was no longer able to look after her large family and instead needed their care. Her lawyers pointed out that she was illiterate and claimed that she had relied on legal advice, simply signing documents that were not explained to her properly, and that medical experts had misinterpreted what she told them.
However, Mr Justice Spencer found that Mrs Fari’s injuries had affected her life for only four or five months after the accident and that her claim had been worth a few thousand pounds at most. She was a ‘strong and domineering’ character, who had actively pursued her case while her husband of 27 years foolishly went along with her.
In mitigation, the couple’s lawyers submitted that they were the ‘engine room’ of their family of children, aged 15 to 24, two of whom were disabled. They were the sole earners, receiving income support, and their absence would have a far-reaching impact that would outweigh any potential deterrence.
Sentencing the couple, the judge said that false and lying claims undermined the administration of justice in a number of serious ways. "Insurers have to spend a great deal of time and money identifying and weeding out claims they think may be fraudulent. False claims damage our whole system in this country of adversarial justice, depending as it does on openness, transparency and honesty.
"False claims can take up a great deal of court time and precious resources. The courts have made it very clear that those who make false claims and are caught out must expect to go to prison. There is no other way to underline the gravity of such conduct and deter those who may be tempted to make such claims, no other way to improve the administration of justice." Implementation of Mrs Fari’s sentence was stayed pending a possible appeal.