Expert witnesses jailed after perjury on “industrial scale”

July 12, 2017

After a two month Trial between February and April 2017, 7 former rates surveyors from disgraced firm of professional rates witnesses, Autofocus Limited (AF), were jailed on 16 June 2017 for between 3 and 14 months: [2017] EWHC 1096 (Admin) and (sentencing) [2017] EWHC (Admin) 1530.

Guy Vickers of Exchange Chambers (led at Trial by John Rees QC, a door tenant at Exchange) was junior counsel on behalf of Accident Exchange Limited (AX) (one of AF’s main victims) from the drafting of the application for permission to commit in August 2011 through until sentencing, during which period he also appeared in 2 sets of Court of Appeal test cases (Dickinson v Tesco; Purushothaman v Malik) which led to AX recovering millions of pounds from insurers. The committal application was delayed for over 2 and a half years while the City of London Police investigated the allegations.

The main business of AX was the hire of cars to victims of road traffic accidents. The Defendants were employed by AF and gave evidence as quasi-experts on behalf of defendant insurers seeking to reduce claims for the hire of replacement cars. AX claimed that the dishonest evidence of AF has resulted in thousands of cases across the entirety of the UK being contaminated, and countless first instance courts being routinely deceived as to the honesty of the evidence deployed. Overall, there may have been in the region of 30,000 cases tried and settled. Granting permission, the Divisional Court observed that, if these allegations were made out, this would be perjury on an industrial scale. Supperstone J., after hearing the evidence over the 8 week Trial (the first Judge who had ever had the opportunity to do so in full and for the purpose of making judicial findings of fact) was in complete agreement with that assessment. He concluded that the evidence that AF was involved in the systematic, endemic fabrication of evidence, in which the Defendants and each of them knowingly and actively participated throughout the material time, was overwhelming.

The matter had previously been referred to the Attorney-General after permission to bring the committal application was granted in February 2012. Supperstone J., expressing his unhappiness that the City of London police had refused to review the material he had seen, “because they did not have the resources to analyse it”, referred the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions and directed that “the judgment I have delivered in this case and these sentencing remarks be passed to the DPP, together with all the papers in this case. In the light of the history of this matter, I request that the DPP personally consider what, if any, action should be taken, in particular against those persons who were controlling and managing AF at all material times”.

The Defendants were also ordered to pay the costs with all but the First Defendant being ordered to do so on the indemnity basis. The costs were estimated at £1.5 million.

After the hearing, Guy Vickers said:

“Having been instructed in various matters by AX since the fraud of Autofocus first began to be discovered in 2009 it is very rewarding to finally see closure on this matter; but for the perseverance of AX and its CEO, Steve Evans, it is unlikely that this industrial-scale fraud would ever have been fully exposed to the light of judicial scrutiny.”