A couple from Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, have been jailed for a total of 12 months having both been found guilty of a combined 26 grounds of contempt of court, arising from personal injury claims they brought following a road traffic accident on 23 June 2014. Between them, they claimed £2.2 million damages on the basis they were both significantly and permanently disabled, requiring almost round the clock care. The claims had previously been held to have been fundamentally dishonest and were dismissed following an eight-day trial in December 2021.

The pair were sentenced at Middlesbrough High Court on Friday by His Honour Judge Mark Gargan. Mark Smith was sentenced to eight months imprisonment, Sarah Smith to four months, her sentence having been halved on account of being the primary carer to four children under the age of 7, two of which had special needs.

KGM Underwriting Services supplied substantial covert surveillance evidence covering a three-year period which showed that Sarah Smith had recovered from her injuries within three months of the accident and that Mark Smith was nowhere nearly as badly disabled as he claimed. Mark Smith was only seen using crutches when he went to hospital, to court or to the police station. Sarah Smith had only appeared to be disabled on one occasion when she attended a medical examination for her claim, but she had been walking normally and unaided just five minutes earlier when visiting a supermarket.

Mark Smith had also arranged for fictitious business accounts to be created and submitted to insurers for an engine building business he claimed to run and which he claimed was very profitable though he had never paid any income tax. Sarah Smith was shown to have submitted a fraudulently created doctor’s report to support an appeal against the loss of her injury benefits. That fake doctor’s report was brazenly submitted just six days after she received a suspended sentence in November 2017 for fraud and attempting to pervert the course of justice in conjunction with Mark Smith (and which had led to him being sentenced to seven months in prison).

Despite the seemingly overwhelming evidence of their dishonesty, both Mark and Sarah Smith continued to argue that they had pursued honest claims and that any inaccuracy or exaggeration was not their fault but that of their “greedy lawyers” and their relatives, who were alleged to have completed documents on their behalf. They maintained that position throughout the trial and even after His Honour Judge Mark Gargan found them to be dishonest in a carefully considered judgment.

HF advised KGM to bring proceedings for contempt of court and finally in December 2022, the Smiths admitted their guilt. The Smiths were ordered to pay KGM’s costs and to return interim payments that KGM had paid in good faith to assist them when the claims were first presented.

Andrew Baker, Partner at HF commented, “We welcome these immediate custodial sentences, following a previous finding that the personal injury claims were fundamentally dishonest. These sentences are a stark reminder of the dangers of bringing dishonest claims and should act as a deterrent to other would-be fraudsters, about the risks of massively inflating personal injury claims, even where the individual has suffered serious injuries, as was the case here, particularly so far as Mark Smith was concerned.”

A spokesman for KGM Underwriting Services added, “We are pleased to see the Court took a firm approach to the sentencing in this case. Both Mark and Sarah Smith doggedly maintained their dishonest claims in the face of the overwhelming evidence our lawyers gathered which clearly demonstrated that the claims were either entirely false or massively inflated. KGM strive to offer our customers motor insurance at a competitive price, so it’s important that we do not allow dishonest claimants to pursue spurious or inflated claims. Equally, we recognise the need to properly compensate victims of accidents which were not their fault. The irony for Mr and Ms Smith is that recognising the injuries they suffered, we offered them appropriate compensation back in 2015 which they chose to reject in their 7½-year quest for a windfall they were never entitled to.”

KGM Underwriting Services were represented by HF Solicitors and Paul Higgins of Crown Office Chambers, London.

Note: In November 2017 Mark and Sarah Smith, then living in Thirsk, had both been found guilty of insurance fraud and perverting the course of justice after Mark Smith falsely claimed he was driving a Motability car (obtained off the back of the disabling injuries he claimed were caused by the June 2014 accident) which crashed into a house, causing an estimated £40,000 damage. However, when lipstick was found on the airbag their story unravelled and it was discovered that the car was being driven by Sarah Smith, an uninsured and unlicenced driver. Mark Smith was sentenced to seven months imprisonment and Sarah Smith the same, albeit suspended. Both continued to maintain their innocence for these offences, even in the face of insurer’s covert surveillance showing Sarah Smith driving the vehicle some three months prior to the crash (which had not been available to the prosecution when that case went to trial in the Teesside Crown Court). These earlier convictions were widely reported in the press.