Nine month sentence signals firmer fraud stance by courts

The nine-month prison sentence handed to an insurance fraudster last week indicates a sea change in the attitude of the courts, says one law firm.

David Cairns, 44, of Liverpool was sentenced at Liverpool crown court after being convicted of insurance fraud and perjury for falsely claiming he broke his ankle in a pothole in the road when the accident happened during a game of football.

Cairns was successful in his initial claim against Wigan council and was awarded £9,200 compensation in 2003. In 2006 concerns were raised that led to a further inquiry by northern law firm Forbes Solicitors.

Cairns’ nephew, Anthony Purves, who lied on his behalf during the initial compensation proceedings, has also been sentenced to six months in prison.

The sentences are among the harshest to be handed down in England for cases of insurance fraud, said Chris Booth, anti-fraud manager at Forbes.

“Historically we’ve had a relative lack of success from the police and the CPS. I think the perception is that insurance companies have pots of cash but there has been a change of tide in the attitude,” he said.

“The northeast of England is considered to be a hotbed of insurance fraud so this sets a very good precedent.”

Booth said judges had been content in the past to hand out fines to insurance fraudsters. Only recently has the punishment escalated to jail sentences.

In a similar case three years ago, the fraudster was sentenced to only 14 days in jail and his two witnesses who falsely testified were each given fines.

In the ruling at Liverpool crown court, the judge told Cairns: “Punishment for perjury is severe because it has to be … This is so serious that it is my intention not only to punish you but act as a deterrent in other cases.”