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Former Miss England contestant found guilty of contempt of court

Defendant blames claims management company for persuading her to go along with insurance scam

12 August 2015

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A former Miss England contestant and semi-pro footballer has been sentenced to two months in prison after the High Court found her guilty of making up a personal injury claim.

Amy Laban, 25, who has modelled for Gap, and played football for both Birmingham City and Nottingham Forest ladies teams, along with accomplice Laura Hazeldine, 24, made a £3,000 claim against insurance company esure following a road traffic accident in April 2012 in the Queensway area of Birmingham. Hazeldine was also sentenced to two months for her role in the scam.

After failing to attend a number of medical appointments to verify her injuries, insurance industry law firm Horwich Farrelly, on behalf of its client esure, applied for the High Court to dismiss Laban's claims. Contempt proceedings were brought against both claimants for lying about the vehicle's occupants and falsifying the injuries.

Investigators obtained photos of Laban taking part in gruelling fitness tests for the beauty pageant and participating in a skydive while she claimed to be suffering from whiplash. Tweets sent by Laban to various celebrities for donations were also used in evidence. In June 2015 both defendants pleaded guilty to contempt of court.

Laban claimed that a week after the accident she received numerous harassment calls from claims management companies (CMCs) and was persuaded to submit a claim by one particularly pushy firm. She described herself as 'young, vulnerable, stupid, but also taken advantage of by a claims company'. Similarly, Hazeldine admitted to 'stupidly and naïvely' participating in the scam.

Passing sentence in the High Court, His Honour Judge Godsmark remarked: 'The claim was fraudulent right from the start. People think this is a victimless crime, however, it uses the courts resources to facilitate the crime; it uses insurers' resources. Genuine claimants have the eye of suspicion cast on their claims. The courts have stressed repeatedly that those who commit this must receive prison sentences.'

David Pitt, esure's chief operating officer, said his company was delighted to secure the conviction which would add weight to the insurance industry's fight against fraudulent claims.

'Convictions such as this are crucial in sending out a message to other would-be fraudsters and should serve as a warning to anyone who still thinks that making an exaggerated insurance claim is acceptable. This is a victory for honest policyholders as we continue to protect them from increased premiums by ensuring fraudsters face justice,' he said.

Also commenting on the judgment, Ronan McCann, fraud partner at Horwich Farrelly, said: 'Ms Laban had everything going for her, as a successful model and sportsperson, and had recently started a career as a PE teacher. Yet, like many people, she was seduced by a claims firm and found herself striding down the runway towards the destruction of her reputation.

'This case clearly illustrates just how easy it is to get sucked into making false claims. Laban and Hazeldine now face the threat of paying substantial legal bills and the loss of their good name. Sad though this is for the individuals concerned, the sentences show that insurance fraud will not be tolerated by the courts or insurers. Anyone tempted to falsify a claim needs to realise they could face long-term consequences and should think very hard before taking the risk.'

 

John van der Luit-Drummond is deputy editor for Solicitors Journal
john.vanderluit@solicitorsjournal.co.uk | @JvdLD

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