Video: Man jailed over £1 million wrist injury claim was filmed playing rugby
Published 27/06/2013 | 17:20
A man has been jailed for eight months after he was caught playing rugby while making a £923,000 claim for wrist injuries.
The Old Bailey heard David Ribchester (31) was secretly filmed at his local rugby club where he was "seen to grab the ball with both hands and go into a hard tackle" despite claiming he was unable to carry out the most basic of tasks and even tie his shoelaces.
Ribchester, who exaggerated the injuries he received to his hands and wrists in a workplace accident in February 2006, pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation at the court last month.
Sentencing him, Judge Nicholas Cooke told him: "David Ribchester, it is greed that has brought you to this and unfortunately there is a lot of greed out there."
"Genuinely injured people putting forward wholly honest claims are viewed sceptically because of the publicity in relation to this sort of matter.
"Anyone who is tempted to behave in a dishonest way to the extent that you did by attempting to exploit a system which exists to compensate the genuinely injured will end up going to prison."
The court heard Ribchester told doctors he needed help with his personal care including getting in and out of the bath and that he could not open jars, carry out housework, play the drums or drive his car.
He also conned psychiatrists into thinking he was emotionally scarred by the accident and was diagnosed with moderate post-traumatic stress disorder and with showing features of a major depressive disorder.
He even told them he felt like he was not a proper father as he could not pick his young daughter up.
But insurers began to suspect him after his injuries seemed to be getting worse over time, and referred him to their in-house counter fraud team who carried out surveillance.
Between February 2008 and October 2009, he was filmed on a number of occasions driving his car, carrying his daughter, constructing garden furniture, pushing a trolley, and loading and unloading heavy shopping bags.
Prosecutor James Byrne told the court that on October 10, 2009 Ribchester was filmed watching rugby at the club, before being seen taking part in non-contact training the next day.
Then on October 24, he was filmed joining in training once again where he was seen to tackle another player.
The judge added: "It costs a lot of money to set up surveillance operations, to have contacted the fraud department in the insurance company. Such things probably didn't exist decades ago, such is the extent that dishonesty may have become endemic in this world."
The court heard Ribchester had genuinely injured soft tissue damage to both wrists after he fell around 5ft to the ground when a ladder came away from a refrigerated HGV lorry owned by Schmitz Cargobull in Durham.
The court heard that on March 6, 2006, the company received a letter alleging negligence on their part for their failure to ensure the ladder was properly fixed to the trailer.
The letter was written by his sister, Andrea Ribchester, a qualified personal insurance solicitor, although the court heard there was no suggestion she had committed any wrongdoing.
An investigation was carried out concluding an admission of liability for the accident by Schmitz Cargobull.
But the court heard that nothing was then heard by the insurers from the defendant or his sister for more than eight months, and then in September 2007 they received a letter which for the first time described Ribchester as having suffered from "significant physical injuries".
The letter, from Paul D'Ambrogio Solictors, who Mrs Ribchester was by this time working for, also claimed the defendant had been "adversely psychologically affected by the injuries upon his life and the ongoing pain from which he is suffering."
Mr Byrne said that the insurance company began to become suspicious at the defendant's seemingly worsening symptoms and also by the fact that his sister appeared to be running the claim on his behalf and secret surveillance was carried out.
The insurers, RSA Group Insurance Company, also instructed their own solicitors who arranged for a doctor to assess Ribchester.
The court heard his report said: "I have never come across a case of complex regional pain syndrome which has allegedly developed in this way. If it is due to an accident, it occurs within a few weeks following trauma, it does not simply occur many months later."
Mr Byrne said Ribchester's claims were then laid out, which included £24,175 for childcare and £19,382 for future childcare, while he expected £321,901 for future nursing costs for himself along with £89,253 future expenses.
The court heard the defendant later settled for just £50,000 but was then arrested on April 3 this year.
He gave police a prepared statement in which he claimed that the extent of his pain varied from day to day and when he had spoken to doctors he was giving an indication of how they were at their worst.
In mitigation Flavia Kenyon, defending Ribchester, said he was a hard-working family man of previous good character who had never offended before.
Ribchester, of the John F Kennedy estate, Washington, Tyne and Wear, showed no emotion as the sentence was passed.