In the recent case of Calderdale v Atwal, a clinical negligence claimant was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment and ordered to pay costs of £75,000 after dishonestly exaggerating the extent of his injuries.
The case serves as a reassuring reminder that the Courts will not tolerate deceitful statements of truth, and take seriously parties’ ability to trust them.
Contempt of court covers a wide variety of conduct that does (or might) obstruct, prejudice or abuse the administration of justice, including deliberately submitting false statements of truth. Such conduct is punishable by a fine, asset seizure and imprisonment.
Accountability for dishonesty is a fundamental advantage of using the Court system to deal with disputes, as opposed to alternative means of dispute resolution. This is particularly true where there are concerns about the honesty of a party, or where evidence by way of witness statements is important.
In Calderdale, which was the first contempt case pursued by an NHS trust, the Court expressed that the sentence given “be a warning to all” of the consequences of dishonesty.