’[This] effectively demolished the claimant’s case,’ says legal director 

Investment into facial recognition technology by law firm Clyde and Co and Axa UK led to a motorist who issued a fraudulent claim having to stump up more than £50,000.

Ashley Copley – a 26-year-old hospitality worker from Barnsley – was found to have lied about a witness to an accident he was involved in being independent. 

This was because investigators found a photograph on Facebook of the claimant drinking with a close associate of the witness.

And they proved Copley was the man in the image after using the services of a facial recognition expert. 

Speaking exclusively to Insurance Times, Clyde and Co’s legal director Elinor Willis highlighted that “a common theme in cases – particularly where exaggeration is an issue – is that the providence of evidence disclosed is put into question by the claimant”, especially when it comes to identifying a person of question in an image.

However, “images can be of varying quality and poor angles”, which can make it “very difficult to prove that the claimant is not telling the truth”, she said.

“What Axa and ourselves managed to do here was to engage an expert who used complex techniques and advance software to prove that the person in the digital images was indeed who we said it was,” Willis added.

“That effectively demolished the claimant’s case.”

The case

In a statement earlier this week (6 June 2023), Clyde and Co said Copley filed a £15,000 claim following a vehicle collision in January 2020 on the M1 towards the A6 in Hoyland Common, South Yorkshire.

While the driver of the vehicle that hit Copley’s car described the impact as “very minor”, Copley claimed that injuries sustained in the collision left him unable to work.

However, Axa UK – the second driver’s insurer – became suspicious of Copley’s claim.

To support his version of events, Copley produced a statement from an independent witness.

However, this was when investigators working for Clyde and Co – representing Axa UK – found photo evidence that Copley was known to the witness – a point that both individuals denied. 

Shortly before the case was due to be heard in court, Copley discontinued his claim.

Clyde and Co’s fraud team, however, applied to the court for a finding that Copley’s claim had been fundamentally dishonest.

Copley again denied he was the person in the photo.

“If one can obtain an ‘original’ document – then linking it to a claimant is easy,” said Willis.

“But, while we can get an order from the court asking for disclosure of that original document, if the claimant denies it’s him in it, he will also deny having that document – so it takes us nowhere.”

Facial recognition 

As a result, the law firm and insurer approached facial recognition expert Dr Shelina Jilana of Acumé Forensic, who was then able to identify 13 points of similarity between Copley’s face and the man in the photograph – proving they were one and the same.

After hearing all the evidence, deputy district judge Ben Rose at Barnsley County Court ruled the claim was fundamentally dishonest and ordered Copley to pay the defendant’s costs, which were assessed at £51,299.

“I am satisfied that the claimant has been fundamentally dishonest in all aspects of his claim, except that the vehicles actually collided, every other aspect has been massaged, obfuscated and done so knowingly, in attempt to gain compensation for an accident that was his own fault,” he said.

The hearing took place in December 2022.

Willis said that “Copley is now paying a high price for his failure to tell the truth”.

Chris Walsh, Axa Commercial claims director, added: “We are pleased to have been able to leverage technology, along with the expertise of specialists, to secure this successful outcome for our customer.

“Axa continues to fight against insurance fraud in collaboration with our legal partners, ensuring there are consequences for fraudsters.”