Brighton & Hove Bus & Coach Company Ltd v Brooks [2011] EWHC 2504  

Brighton & Hove Bus & Coach Company Ltd applied to commit Mrs Brooks and three of her witnesses, who were her husband and two daughters, for contempt of court proceedings.

The application was made following damages being paid to Mrs Brooks following a road traffic accident in which she was hit by a bus. She claimed to have sustained a severe brain injury and had limitation on her mobility as a result.

She attended numerous medics during the course of the proceedings. She attended with her daughters and presented as someone with restricted mobility, making use of walking sticks or a wheelchair. Her claim was for several million pounds.

Surveillance evidence obtained by the bus company showed that she had much better mobility than she presented and at times she was seen walking unassisted. Her claim was settled for £40,000.

Following settlement, the bus company applied for committal on the basis that she and her family had dishonestly misrepresented the extent of her disability in order to inflate her claim. It was claimed that they connived and made false statements knowing that they would interfere with the administration of justice.

The court found them to be in contempt of court but, in reaching its decision, found that no adverse inference could be drawn from the settlement of her claim as this was due to her counsel having to withdraw from the case.

On sentencing, the court considered that fines would be an inadequate punishment and ordered suspended prison sentences for D1 and D3 (six months and three months respectively). They were also ordered to pay 70 per cent of C’s costs.

D1 was eight months pregnant and, although not a ‘get out of jail card’, this clearly had a bearing on the decision to suspend her sentence.

In ordering custodial sentences, the court said that it wanted to send a clear message to claimants planning to boost their claim fraudulently.