West Yorkshire Police have successfully defended a multi-million pound false imprisonment claim brought by a Bradford GP following a ten day trial. The case, on which Olivia Checa-Dover led Daniel Penman, was originally listed as a jury trial, but following consideration of the twelve lever arch files of documentary evidence Mr Recorder Nolan Q.C. was persuaded that the case should be tried by a judge alone.

In addition to the issue of the lawfulness of the Claimant’s arrest, the defence case included consideration of whether the Claimant would have been lawfully arrested in any event (as per Parker v Chief Constable of Essex Police) and whether the Claimant’s conduct in allegedly failing to properly discharge his duty to the court extinguished his right to bring a claim (ex turpi causa, by analogy to Liverpool Victoria Insurance v Khan).

The Claimant was arrested as part of “Operation Thatcham”, a years-long investigation into cash-for-crash frauds run through a Claims Management Company known as Advance Claims/Concept Accident Management, which resulted in over 60 arrests and 47 convictions for conspiracy to defraud and related offences. The reasons for the Claimant’s arrest included:

  1. That a diary of his appointments was found in the car of one of the key individuals running Advance Claims. This established that he was seeing as many as 50 clients per day in 10 minute appointments, and charging £470+VAT for those appointments.
  2. That he was making payments to Advance Claims and his instructing solicitors for each client that they sent him. When the account of Advance Claims was restrained in October 2011, he began making payments directly to an account linked to one of the ringleaders of the cash-for-crash conspiracy.
  3. That the advice received by the police pre-arrest was that his reports were substandard, to the extent that it was doubted that his reports were being written by a qualified doctor.

One of the biggest challenges involved in defending the case was the absence of the arresting officer, who left West Yorkshire Police shortly after this arrest was made, a fact which the Claimant made a great deal of throughout the trial. Having been taken through the relevant documentary evidence the judge was satisfied that the decision to arrest was a “team decision” made by several officers in liaison with the CPS, and that all of those officers had had the necessary reasonable suspicion and belief in necessity to arrest the Claimant. As well as finding that the Claimant was lawfully arrested the judge additionally found that the Claimant would in any event have been lawfully arrested by another officer in the event that the arresting officer lacked the necessary suspicion.

After his arrest, the Claimant was found to have reported on several individuals known to him, including two of the ringleaders of the conspiracy who he had met in a restaurant shortly before preparing the reports, and several other concerns were raised about his diligence and accuracy in completing reports. The defence in this respect was based by analogy upon the recent case of Liverpool Victoria Insurance v Khan, in which a doctor who “industrialised” the process of medicolegal reporting was held to be in contempt of court. While the court did not expressly find that the Claimant’s behaviour would extinguish his right to bring a claim, it was held that he had been evasive and equivocal in his evidence and did not have a proper understanding or respect for his duty to the court or the solemnity of the declarations that he was making in his reports.

This case required in depth review of nearly 6000 pages of documentation leading to the detailed cross examination of the Claimant over more than a day of court time, including working with sensitive material that had to be heard in camera. It was ultimately the effective marshalling of those documents which enabled the court to conclude that the Claimant’s arrest had been lawful.

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