26 September 2011 #Dispute Resolution
A recent case serves as a timely reminder of the serious consequences that can follow if a person includes a statement in a witness statement or other Court document which they know to be untrue. In legal proceedings, the parties are required to verify certain Court documents by signing what is called a “Statement of Truth”. This is a statement that the individual honestly believes that the information in the document is true.
The case of Nield & Another -v- Loveday & Another  EWHC 2324 (Admin) involved proceedings brought by Mr Nield and an insurance company against Mr Loveday and his wife seeking penal sanctions for making false statements in Court documents.
The case arose following a road traffic accident involving Mr Nield and Mr Loveday. Mr Nield’s insurers admitted Mr Nield was responsible for the crash but disputed the extent of Mr Loveday’s injuries and whether they had been caused by the accident. Mr Loveday therefore commenced proceedings in the County Court against Mr Nield seeking damages for personal injury. Amongst other matters, he claimed that he was often reliant on a wheelchair, unable to walk more than a very short distance, and had developed a fear of travelling.
However, Mr Nield’s insurers commissioned private investigators who obtained covert surveillance footage indicating that Mr Loveday’s claim was exaggerated. The personal injury proceedings were settled, but Mr Nield and his insurers then brought committal proceedings for contempt of Court against Mr Loveday and his wife, who had filed a witness statement in support of her husband’s claim.
The Court found that Mr Loveday had signed the Statement of Truth in his Particulars of Claim and witness statement without an honest belief that some of the facts stated were true. It also held that, once Mr Loveday was found to have lied about the extent of his injuries when seeking damages for personal injury, it must follow that he knew he was likely to interfere with the course of justice. The Court, therefore, imposed an immediate prison sentence on Mr Loveday of 9 months. His wife, who admitted contempt of Court, was given a suspended prison sentence of 6 months. This is a clear message from the Courts that they will not tolerate conduct in legal proceedings which is designed to pervert the course of justice.