Injury claim woman sentenced
A mother of 13 who exaggerated an injury in a bid to claim £750,000 compensation has received a three-month prison sentence.
But High Court judge Mr Justice Spencer stayed the term - half of which Mrs Barbara Fari would have to serve before her automatic release - pending any appeal.
If an appeal is not lodged by November 29, discontinued or dismissed, she will have to surrender herself into custody.
Lawyers for Homes for Haringey told the judge that Mrs Fari, who is 60 tomorrow, lied about how badly she was hurt when she tripped on uneven paving and twisted her right knee in May 2008.
The organisation, which manages council housing in the north London borough, admitted liability and offered her £7,500 but she pursued a massive claim which was only struck out by a judge in October 2012 after covert video evidence revealed a huge difference between how she presented at medical examinations and when she was out and about near her home in Lightfoot Road, Hornsey.
Last week, Mr Justice Spencer ruled that Mrs Fari and her husband, Piper, were both in contempt of court.
Mrs Fari had presented a "grossly false" picture of her continuing symptoms to doctors and in legal documents and Mr Fari was complicit in the charade.
Mr Fari received a two-month prison sentence suspended for 12 months.
Mrs Fari said the fall aggravated her pre-existing arthritis to the point where she was no longer able to look after her large family and instead needed their care.
The couple denied contempt and Mrs Fari, who is illiterate, claimed she relied on the advice of solicitors, simply signed documents which were not explained properly, and that medical experts misinterpreted what she told them.
But the judge described her as a "strong and domineering" character, who actively pursued her case while her unemployed husband of 27 years foolishly went along with it.
The couple's counsel, Mohammed Bashir, said the couple were the "engine room" of their family of children aged 15 to 24, two of whom are disabled.
They were the sole earners, receiving income support of £190 per week, and their absence would have a far-reaching effect which would outweigh any potential deterrence.
He emphasised that Haringey never paid out the money which was claimed and said the couple, who were of previous good character, were essentially good people trying to do their best in difficult circumstances.
The judge, who heard that the couple were legally aided, made a £100,000 costs order against them, which will not be enforced without leave of the court.
Later, Homes for Haringey's solicitor, Jennifer Harris of Plexus Law, said: "This is a stark warning to anyone tempted to exaggerate a personal injury claim. It is not just their compensation they risk losing but also their liberty.
"If the original claim had been for a realistic sum which reflected the true extent of the injury, this case would have been settled long ago and need never have come to court. The courts have sent a consistent and strong message at every stage of these proceedings - fraudulent behaviour will not be tolerated."
Mark Dyson, insurance partner at Plexus Law, said "This decision will make a huge difference in terms of future and indeed current personal injury claims, forcing claimants to focus purely on pursuing the genuine element of their claim, and helping the insurance industry to contain its costs which in turn will benefit society generally."
Sentencing the couple, the judge said that false and lying claims undermined the administration of justice in a number of serious ways.
"Insurers have to spend a great deal of time and money identifying and weeding out claims they think may be fraudulent.
"False claims damage our whole system in this country of adversarial justice, depending as it does on openness, transparency and honesty.
"False claims can take up a great deal of court time and precious resources.
"The courts have made it very clear that those who make false claims and are caught out must expect to go to prison. There is no other way to underline the gravity of such conduct and deter those who may be tempted to make such claims, no other way to improve the administration of justice."
He said that Mrs Fari's injury affected her life for only four or five months and was a claim worth a few thousand pounds at most.
He accepted her solicitors were not the most efficient, but it was Mrs Fari's conduct which was under the spotlight and it was she who had unusually chosen to contest every allegation to the hilt in the proceedings.