Contempt of Court for grossly exaggerated claim against NHS Trust

Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust – v – Sandip Singh Atwal

Hempsons Solicitors, instructed by NHS Resolution on behalf of CHNHS FT have succeeded in establishing that Mr Sandip Atwal was in contempt of Court on 14 grounds for grossly exaggerating the effect of minor injuries and fraudulently claiming compensation against the NHS. The Court has issued an Order confirming that Mr Atwal will be sentenced on 01.06.18.

This is the first time that an NHS Trust has engaged in proceedings of this kind.

A public interest issue?

Financial pressures across the health system, including the cost of clinical negligence continues to be a significant concern. This landmark decision demonstrates that contempt and fraud against the NHS will be investigated and dealt with robustly. Whilst not intended to deter genuine claims it highlights the very serious consequences of submitting dishonest and exaggerated claims.

Factual Background

Mr Atwal sought damages in excess of £800,000 for clinical negligence, following fractures of two finger and a laceration of the lower lip sustained during a fight in 2008, alleging that he was grossly incapacitated, had been left a social recluse and was unable to return to work.

The Court found that Mr Atwal deliberately set out to defraud the NHS and deceive the Court by exaggerating the extent of his continuing symptoms and disabilities. A period of covert surveillance and review of social media entries, revealed that Mr Atwal exhibited no disability and continued to work.

Throughout the contempt proceedings (November 2016 onwards), Mr Atwal failed to engage and never sought to explain any of the discrepancies between the surveillance evidence, his pleaded case and claimed loss.

Contempt of Court

The claim against Mr Atwal proceeded on two grounds. First, that Mr Atwal deliberately set out to deceive the Court about the extent of his continuing disability and thus that he deliberately interfered with due administration of justice by falsely representing his symptoms to doctors and experts[1]. Secondly, that Mr Atwal verified Statements of Truth knowing those statements to be false.[2]

To succeed, the Trust was required to provide its allegations to the criminal standard; that is beyond all reasonable doubt.

The Trust was successful on 14 separate grounds in proving that statements made within the Schedule of Loss and Mr Atwal’s Witness Statement, both of which were verified by Statements of Truth, were false, that these interfered with the administration of justice, that Mr Awtal had no honest belief in the truth of the Statements and that he knew of its likelihood to interfere with the administration of justice.

The Trust successfully relied on inference drawn from Mr Atwal’s non participation and crucially the rapidity at which the very large damages claim was abandoned following receipt of the surveillance material, as evidence that Mr Atwal himself recognised that he had deliberately misled and interfered with administration of justice.

At the various hearings in this matter, the Trust was represented by Chloe Davies of Hempsons and James Todd, Christian du Cann of 39 Essex Chambers. Sadie Crapper, also of 39 Essex Chambers, was instructed in the main proceedings.

See here for the full Judgment and press coverage: https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/judgments/calderdale-and-huddersfield-nhs-foundation-trust-v-sandip-singh-atwal/

 

 

[1] Airbus Operations Ltd v Roberts [2012] EWHC 3631 (Admin), and Homes for Haringey v Fari [2013] EWHC 3477 (QB)

[2] CPR 32.14(1); and, AXA Insurance UK plc v Rossiter [2013] EWHC 3805 (QB).

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