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HomeHealth LawHull College Educating Hospitals NHS Belief -v- Natasha Colley: Contempt of Court...

Hull College Educating Hospitals NHS Belief -v- Natasha Colley: Contempt of Court docket | Medical Negligence and Private Damage Weblog


My weblog on the choice of Ritchie J within the case of Cojanu thought-about the strategy taken by the Court docket when a Defendant advances a defence of elementary dishonesty. This weblog summarises the place when a Defendant submits an software to commit a Claimant’s Litigation Pal for contempt of Court docket for false statements made in a doc verified by an announcement of fact.

Megan Colley (the Claimant in a medical negligence declare assisted by her Mom and Litigation Pal, Natasha Colley) was born with extreme acetabular dysplasia, a dysfunction of the hip joints. She alleged that with acceptable remedy she would have had regular hip operate and the necessity for surgical joint reconstruction would have been delayed to age 50 or 60 with good mobility preserved till her 80s.

Through the course of the medical negligence case, the Defendant disclosed the report of its knowledgeable orthopaedic surgeon. The knowledgeable expressed some doubt concerning the Claimant’s signs which have been “not simply defined on an anatomical foundation”. The Defendant investigated Megan’s social media postings and shaped the view that they didn’t help the impression given in Megan’s proof. The Defendant obtained covert surveillance proof which, with the social media materials, was disclosed in September 2018. The Defendant amended its case to allege elementary dishonesty within the presentation of Megan’s declare the place a deceptive impression of Megan’s useful capability and an exaggeration of her incapacity had been given.

Topic to the elemental dishonesty defence, the Defendant admitted legal responsibility for damages of roughly £65,500. The medical negligence declare was listed for trial in October 2018. The trial was adjourned as a result of an knowledgeable was unavailable and relisted to start out on 5 March 2020.

In the meantime, in August 2019 Megan’s declare was amended and valued at £5.4 million (lowered from an preliminary valuation of £7.3 million). Nonetheless, eight working days earlier than trial, a Discover of Discontinuance was served on Megan’s behalf. No clarification was supplied, save that this step had been taken in opposition to authorized recommendation. As Megan was in receipt of authorized assist, the discontinuance prevented the problem of elementary dishonesty from being decided by the Court docket. 

As an alternative, the Defendant pursued committal proceedings in opposition to Mrs Colley and asserted that the essence of the alleged false assertion was to magnify Megan’s incapacity and immobility arising from her hip dysplasia. The Defendant claimed the surveillance video proof confirmed that Megan had “grossly regular” mobility by way of strolling, utilizing stairs, and accessing public transport. Statements from academics at Megan’s faculty and school indicated that they have been unaware of any particular preparations for Megan.

Mrs Colley stood by her statements. She claimed that Megan achieved the mobility seen within the video proof by elevated use of painkillers and that she had dangerous days in addition to good days. 

The appliance to commit Mrs Colley for contempt of Court docket on grounds of constructing knowingly false statements was heard by Mr Justice Bourne.  Upon listening to reside proof from numerous witnesses (together with Megan’s faculty and school academics), Bourne J concluded “When all of the proof within the medical negligence declare is taken into account, it’s completely clear that Megan, by herself and with the assistance of Mrs Colley considerably exaggerated the degrees of incapacity which she was experiencing in the course of the lifetime of the litigation.

This exaggeration consisted of statements that Megan “attends school in her wheelchair, has a full-time educating assistant who pushes the wheelchair” and “is at present reliant upon using a wheelchair when out of the home”. Bourne J held these statements to be false and “That Mrs Colley knew that they have been false when she made them. I’m certain that they have been knowingly made with a view to growing the worth of Megan’s medical negligence declare and, to the information of Mrs Colley, they thereby interfered with or if persevered in would have interfered with the course of justice in a cloth respect”. 

Mrs Colley was discovered responsible of contempt of Court docket by knowingly making false statements supported by an announcement of fact.

Upon contemplating the suitable penalty Bourne J had in thoughts the steerage of Moses LJ in South Wales Hearth and Rescue Service -v- Smith [2021].  That steerage included the next warning: “The general public and advisors should be conscious that, nonetheless straightforward it’s to make false claims, both in relation to legal responsibility or in relation to compensation, if discovered the implications for these tempted to take action will probably be disastrous. They’re virtually inevitably sooner or later going to result in sentences of imprisonment, which could have the knock-on impact that the lives of these tempted to behave in that approach, of each themselves and their households are more likely to be ruined.

With this in thoughts Bourne J recognized 4 questions he was required to reply: (1) whether or not the contempt is critical {that a} high-quality alone can’t be justified, having relating to to hurt and culpability; (2) whether or not a jail sentence is unavoidable; (3) what’s the shortest time period commensurate with the seriousness of the contempt; and (4) if there may be to be a jail sentence, whether or not it may be suspended.

In answering these questions Bourne J held:

  • In respect of questions (1) and (2), the Courts have repeatedly stated that deception of this sort ought to usually result in a jail sentence. This case was critical and sustained and doubtlessly concerned substantial sums. He famous “the deception gave materials help to a possible improve within the declare’s worth which might have been effectively into six figures”. Mrs Colley resisted the contempt software and subsequently admitted no deception and made no apology. A high-quality alone couldn’t be justified and a custodial sentence was inevitable.
  • As for query (3), the shortest doable sentence could be a sentence of 6 months and Mrs Colley could be entitled to be launched after serving half of that time period. The decide famous “A time period of that size could be needed, in my judgment, to mark the seriousness of an try of this sort and of its magnitude to deceive the Court docket.
  • Lastly, query (4), the private circumstances of Mrs Colley have been thought-about by Bourne J. He concluded his Judgment stating “Mrs Colley after all made a disastrous determination to attempt to assist Megan by exaggerating her declare. The background doesn’t excuse that tragic mistake nevertheless it helps me to grasp it. It additionally appears to be inevitable that custody would have a big dangerous affect on all the household and particularly her son. In the meantime, I settle for that these proceedings, over a protracted interval, have already had a extreme affect on Mrs Colley. The shortage of any admissions is profoundly regrettable, and locations her at actual danger of a right away jail time period, however there may be some motive to imagine that she could have realized her lesson, in different phrases, an actual prospect of rehabilitation.

Bourne J sentenced Mrs Colley to imprisonment for six months, suspended for two years given that no different contempt of Court docket is dedicated throughout that point. In passing this sentence he said “I hope Mrs Colley understands the distinctive nature of this determination to droop.

Apply Factors

This case is an effective instance of how critical the Court docket takes allegations that events to litigation knowingly make false statements in a doc verified by an announcement of fact. Defendants are attuned to potential exaggeration of claims and it’s clear on this case the Defendant’s knowledgeable was at a loss to reconcile the anatomical nature of the Claimant’s harm and the outline of her degree of mobility.

This Judgment is a reminder to these concerned in medical negligence and private harm litigation of the significance to confirm a witness’s account.  An in depth evaluate of disclosure (together with social media content material and third get together disclosure) needs to be taken all through the lifetime of the case.

Moreover, warnings needs to be given to shoppers, Litigation Buddies and witnesses of the implications of offering false statements in a doc verified by an announcement of fact. Colley is just not a one off instance; that is a part of a rising physique of case regulation coping with elementary dishonesty and it’ll actually not be the final phrase the Court docket could have on this topic.

FURTHER INFORMATION

If you want any additional data or recommendation concerning the matter mentioned on this weblog, please contact Richard Lodge or our Medical Negligence and Private Damage crew.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Richard Lodge is a Accomplice within the Medical Negligence and Private Damage observe and has been recognised throughout the subject of medical/medical negligence throughout the Chambers UK and Authorized 500 directories.  He’s an individually ranked lawyer for medical negligence inside Chambers UK, A Shopper’s Information to the UK Authorized Occupation.

 

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