Today the Daily Mail covered the criminal conviction of David Ribchester who was found to have deliberately and illegally misled his lawyers and the medical profession into thinking that he was far more seriously injured than he was.
He was sentenced to eight months in prison and the myth of ‘compensation culture’ has arisen once again in the UK press. This case was truly shocking and the kind of story that not only makes a mockery of the civil justice system but serves only to devalue the rights of genuine victims of negligence from accessing the justice system.
The sad reality is that fraud exists across all industries. But headlines like this give the misleading impression that this issue is limited to Personal Injury Claims alone. In fact the number of actual convictions against people in this area is minimal. The reason this case has become headline news is partly due to the extraordinary lengths Mr Ribchester went to in order to deceive all those around him.
As responsible legal professionals, we condemn people who try and take advantage of our long-established and much-admired criminal and civil justice system. We take a very tough stance on the issue of fraud and believe that anyone found to be abusing the system must be held accountable.
In order to ensure that effective preventative measures are put in place to actively deal with issues of fraud and criminality in the justice system; the legal profession, Government and the Insurance Industry must work collaboratively. We call on the Government to set up a consultation group with all relevant stakeholders to develop a unified approach to the question of fraud. This may involve creating a national data-base and a requirement that insurers improve their communication to policy-holders and their representatives of their obligations and the potential consequences when a fraudulent act occurs.
If we are to have any chance of providing victims of accidents who suffer life-changing injuries with the best possible representation to secure appropriate damages and support in respect of their long-term care and rehabilitative needs, we must ensure that the pertinent issues of fraud are not used as a smoke-screen to limit the rights of genuine victims from seeking expert representation. Sensationalist headlines only serve to place an inaccurate emphasise on the small percentage of people in society who seek to profit from criminal behaviour and put off hardworking, honest people who have suffered a genuine, and often, serious injury, from accessing civil justice.