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20 counts of contempt leads to custodial sentence for claimant who forged daughter’s birth certificate


Keoghs and QBE Business Insurance have successfully pursued 20 counts of contempt against a claimant who falsely claimed damages of £600k following a workplace accident. Due to the seriousness of his deceit which included a forged birth certificate, the claimant was sentenced to 15 months in prison reduced to 10 months due to early admission, at the contempt hearing on Friday 17 November.

The claimant, Mr Hilton, sought damages for significant soft tissue and psychological injuries, along with loss of earnings and care costs, totalling £600,000. After a fuel hose fell from some height at a construction business in summer 2015, he claimed for multiple injuries, but inconsistencies emerged around the circumstances of the accident, the types of injuries and his medical history.

Mr Hilton alleged that he could barely walk and was confined to a wheelchair, essentially being housebound. However, investigations exposed his web of lies, with surveillance catching him driving to the shops, walking without a stick, and even leaning into the open bonnet of his car to work on the engine.

The claimant said that the accident had triggered psychological issues, but medical records revealed those dated further back, with a depression occurring right after his daughter’s birth. When confronted with this, Mr Hilton doubled down on his deceit, suggesting that there was another person at his GP practice with the same name and their records must have been mixed up. In an attempt to prove that the dates were incorrect, he forged his daughter’s birth certificate and served it with a witness statement.

With so many fabrications exposed, the defence was amended to dishonesty. Mr Hilton then seemingly abandoned his case, defaulting on a number of directions, which resulted in the claim being struck out. Given the claim didn’t reach trial, there was no finding of fundamental dishonesty. Nevertheless, Qualified One-Way Costs Shifting (QOCS) was disapplied and the claimant was ordered to pay costs of £10,000 on the basis that his conduct was likely to obstruct the just disposal of proceedings.

Given the staggering layers of fraud in the case, QBE, which insured the construction business, and Keoghs, with Partner Gary Petterson leading the case, then applied for permission to bring committal proceedings for 21 counts of contempt of court against Mr Hilton, including making false statements and interfering with the administration of justice. The court granted permission to proceed on 20 counts, with Mr Hilton admitting to the contempts.

At the hearing, the judge described the level of dishonesty as egregious, that the value of the dishonesty was an aggravating factor and that this was a most calculated, if inept, attempt to defraud the insurers in this case. Mr Hilton was sentenced to a 10 month custodial sentence.

Following the sentencing, Damian Ward, Head of Counter-Fraud, Keoghs said: “I am delighted that we have been able to work closely with QBE on this important landmark case.  It underlines the ongoing commitment that our market-leading team has to work across the insurance industry, to stamp out fraud and bring those responsible to account.”

Charlotte Gray, Special Investigations Unit (SIU) Claims Manager at QBE, said: “The level of deception was exceptional. Instead of admitting to exaggerating his injuries and misrepresenting the circumstances, the claimant kept coming up with new lies to cover up his previous lies. It totally snowballed. It is a relief that the court called it out.”


Gary Petterson

Gary Petterson


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