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HomeHealth LawHull College Educating Hospitals NHS Belief -v- Natasha Colley: Contempt of Court...

Hull College Educating Hospitals NHS Belief -v- Natasha Colley: Contempt of Court docket | Medical Negligence and Private Damage Weblog


My weblog on the choice of Ritchie J within the case of Cojanu thought of the method taken by the Court docket when a Defendant advances a defence of elementary dishonesty. This weblog summarises the place when a Defendant submits an utility to commit a Claimant’s Litigation Buddy for contempt of Court docket for false statements made in a doc verified by a press release of reality.

Megan Colley (the Claimant in a medical negligence declare assisted by her Mom and Litigation Buddy, Natasha Colley) was born with extreme acetabular dysplasia, a dysfunction of the hip joints. She alleged that with applicable therapy she would have had regular hip perform and the necessity for surgical joint reconstruction would have been delayed to age 50 or 60 with good mobility preserved till her 80s.

Throughout the course of the medical negligence case, the Defendant disclosed the report of its professional orthopaedic surgeon. The professional expressed some doubt in regards to the Claimant’s signs which had been “not simply defined on an anatomical foundation”. The Defendant investigated Megan’s social media postings and shaped the view that they didn’t assist the impression given in Megan’s proof. The Defendant obtained covert surveillance proof which, with the social media materials, was disclosed in September 2018. The Defendant amended its case to allege elementary dishonesty within the presentation of Megan’s declare the place a deceptive impression of Megan’s purposeful capability and an exaggeration of her incapacity had been given.

Topic to the elemental dishonesty defence, the Defendant admitted legal responsibility for damages of roughly £65,500. The medical negligence declare was listed for trial in October 2018. The trial was adjourned as a result of an professional was unavailable and relisted to begin on 5 March 2020.

In the meantime, in August 2019 Megan’s declare was amended and valued at £5.4 million (decreased from an preliminary valuation of £7.3 million). Nonetheless, eight working days earlier than trial, a Discover of Discontinuance was served on Megan’s behalf. No clarification was offered, save that this step had been taken towards authorized recommendation. As Megan was in receipt of authorized help, the discontinuance prevented the problem of elementary dishonesty from being decided by the Court docket. 

As an alternative, the Defendant pursued committal proceedings towards Mrs Colley and asserted that the essence of the alleged false assertion was to magnify Megan’s incapacity and immobility arising from her hip dysplasia. The Defendant claimed the surveillance video proof confirmed that Megan had “grossly regular” mobility when it comes to strolling, utilizing stairs, and accessing public transport. Statements from lecturers at Megan’s college and school indicated that they had been unaware of any particular preparations for Megan.

Mrs Colley stood by her statements. She claimed that Megan achieved the mobility seen within the video proof by elevated use of painkillers and that she had unhealthy days in addition to good days. 

The appliance to commit Mrs Colley for contempt of Court docket on grounds of constructing knowingly false statements was heard by Mr Justice Bourne.  Upon listening to reside proof from varied witnesses (together with Megan’s college and school lecturers), Bourne J concluded “When all of the proof within the medical negligence declare is taken into account, it’s completely clear that Megan, by herself and with the assistance of Mrs Colley considerably exaggerated the degrees of incapacity which she was experiencing throughout the lifetime of the litigation.

This exaggeration consisted of statements that Megan “attends school in her wheelchair, has a full-time instructing assistant who pushes the wheelchair” and “is presently reliant upon using a wheelchair when out of the home”. Bourne J held these statements to be false and “That Mrs Colley knew that they had been false when she made them. I’m positive that they had been knowingly made with a view to growing the worth of Megan’s medical negligence declare and, to the data of Mrs Colley, they thereby interfered with or if continued in would have interfered with the course of justice in a fabric respect”. 

Mrs Colley was discovered responsible of contempt of Court docket by knowingly making false statements supported by a press release of reality.

Upon contemplating the suitable penalty Bourne J had in thoughts the steering of Moses LJ in South Wales Fireplace and Rescue Service -v- Smith [2021].  That steering included the next warning: “The general public and advisors should be conscious that, nonetheless straightforward it’s to make false claims, both in relation to legal responsibility or in relation to compensation, if discovered the implications for these tempted to take action will probably be disastrous. They’re nearly inevitably sooner or later going to result in sentences of imprisonment, which may have the knock-on impact that the lives of these tempted to behave in that method, of each themselves and their households are more likely to be ruined.

With this in thoughts Bourne J recognized 4 questions he was required to reply: (1) whether or not the contempt is severe {that a} positive alone can’t be justified, having concerning to hurt and culpability; (2) whether or not a jail sentence is unavoidable; (3) what’s the shortest time period commensurate with the seriousness of the contempt; and (4) if there may be to be a jail sentence, whether or not it may be suspended.

In answering these questions Bourne J held:

  • In respect of questions (1) and (2), the Courts have repeatedly mentioned that deception of this type ought to usually result in a jail sentence. This case was severe and sustained and doubtlessly concerned substantial sums. He famous “the deception gave materials assist to a possible improve within the declare’s worth which might have been properly into six figures”. Mrs Colley resisted the contempt utility and subsequently admitted no deception and made no apology. A positive alone couldn’t be justified and a custodial sentence was inevitable.
  • As for query (3), the shortest potential sentence can be a sentence of 6 months and Mrs Colley can be entitled to be launched after serving half of that time period. The decide famous “A time period of that size can be mandatory, in my judgment, to mark the seriousness of an try of this type and of its magnitude to deceive the Court docket.
  • Lastly, query (4), the private circumstances of Mrs Colley had been thought of by Bourne J. He concluded his Judgment stating “Mrs Colley in fact made a disastrous choice to attempt to assist Megan by exaggerating her declare. The background doesn’t excuse that tragic mistake nevertheless it helps me to know it. It additionally appears to be inevitable that custody would have a major dangerous influence on all the household and particularly her son. In the meantime, I settle for that these proceedings, over an extended interval, have already had a extreme influence on Mrs Colley. The shortage of any admissions is profoundly regrettable, and locations her at actual danger of an instantaneous jail time period, however there may be some motive to imagine that she may have discovered her lesson, in different phrases, an actual prospect of rehabilitation.

Bourne J sentenced Mrs Colley to imprisonment for six months, suspended for two years given that no different contempt of Court docket is dedicated throughout that point. In passing this sentence he said “I hope Mrs Colley understands the distinctive nature of this choice to droop.

Apply Factors

This case is an effective instance of how severe the Court docket takes allegations that events to litigation knowingly make false statements in a doc verified by a press release of reality. Defendants are attuned to potential exaggeration of claims and it’s clear on this case the Defendant’s professional was at a loss to reconcile the anatomical nature of the Claimant’s damage and the outline of her stage of mobility.

This Judgment is a reminder to these concerned in medical negligence and private damage litigation of the significance to confirm a witness’s account.  An in depth assessment of disclosure (together with social media content material and third occasion disclosure) must be taken all through the lifetime of the case.

Moreover, warnings must be given to purchasers, Litigation Mates and witnesses of the implications of offering false statements in a doc verified by a press release of reality. Colley isn’t a one off instance; that is a part of a rising physique of case legislation coping with elementary dishonesty and it’ll definitely not be the final phrase the Court docket may have on this topic.

FURTHER INFORMATION

If you want any additional info or recommendation in regards to the matter mentioned on this weblog, please contact Richard Lodge or our Medical Negligence and Private Damage workforce.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Richard Lodge is a Associate within the Medical Negligence and Private Damage follow and has been recognised inside the discipline of medical/medical negligence inside the Chambers UK and Authorized 500 directories.  He’s an individually ranked lawyer for medical negligence inside Chambers UK, A Shopper’s Information to the UK Authorized Occupation.

 

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