Following a recent High Court decision, in which nine people were committed to prison for bringing falsified RTA claims, Mr Justice Warby has recommended that the Civil Procedure Rule Committee should consider holding solicitors, who sign statements of truth on behalf of fraudulent clients, in contempt of court.
The claim was brought by various claimants for damages for an alleged car crash which was said to have been the fault of the driver insured by LVI. The insurer alleged that these claims were fraudulent and that the claimants had lied in contempt of court – this was accepted at trial and the insurer then made an application for orders committing each of the nine defendants to prison for contempt of court.
Handing down judgment, Warby J agreed and said he was ‘in no doubt that all the defendants told deliberate lies from the outset, and throughout the proceedings in the county court and this court’.
Three of the claimants were jailed and three others received suspended sentences.
It was raised by the insurer that the false statements made by the claimants were made on their behalf, verified by a statement of truth, namely the CNFs filed for them through the online portal. The statements of truth on those documents were made by their solicitors.
In relation to this point, it was noted that the Practice Direction on Pre-Action Conduct and the Pre-Action Protocol for Low Value Personal Injury Claims in Road Traffic Accidents of the same date were both in force at the relevant times and set out a process for claims of this kind. They require claimants to use a CNF in form RTA1 and set out the requirements for completion of the CNF which include a requirement that the statement of truth in form RTA1 be ‘signed by the claimant or the claimant’s legal representative’.
Although, Warby J, did not propose to make any findings about this issue, he stated at para 153:
‘It may be arguable therefore that a false and dishonest statement in a CNF in Form RTA1 could found an application to commit for contempt, but it cannot be said that the matter is free from doubt. To say that the court "will expect" compliance with a PAP is not necessarily equivalent to saying that parties must comply. The General PAP states that parties who do not comply may be asked for an explanation, and warns of costs consequences, but not of the prospect of contempt proceedings. This is a topic that may be worthy of consideration by those responsible for these PAPs, and perhaps the Civil Procedure Rules Committee’.
This judgment should be seen as a warning to litigators of the dangers of signing a statement of truth of behalf of their clients.