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Saturday, 01 November 2014

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Friends faked car crash to defraud insurance firm, Carlisle court told

Three friends who staged a fake car crash in a doomed attempt to defraud an insurance company have been given suspended jail terms.

Tony Proudfoot, 25, from Walton, near Brampton, dreamed up the scam with his two pals after deciding that he no longer liked his Renault Laguna car and that he wanted to have it written off, Carlisle Crown Court was told.

He executed the plan with Mark Patterson, 40, and 25-year-old Anthony Stirzaker, deliberately setting up a crash in London Road, Carlisle, involving his car and a van driven by Patterson.

Stirzaker, of Cumberland Street, Denton Holme, Carlisle, who was a front seat passenger in the car, later made a compensation claim for a whiplash injury he said he suffered, while Proudfoot claimed £1,900 for his written off Renault.

In court today, all three men admitted an offence of conspiring to defraud.

Gerard Rogerson, prosecuting, said police were called on July 3 last year by Patterson, who reported being involved in a crash on London Road.

He said he had driven into the rear of the Renault.

Both vehicles had minor damage and officers found Stirzaker lying on a patch of grass nearby, apparently with a minor injury.

Strirzaker later lodged a claim in the county court for an amount not exceeding £3,000, having visited a hospital A&E department with an apparent whiplash injury.

But police became suspicious and discovered through mobile phone records that there had been contact between Patterson, of South Street, Alloa, Clackmannanshire, and the others, though they all claimed not to know each other.

All “came clean” when confronted with that evidence, said Mr Rogerson.

Though none of the defendants had been previously involved in a similar scam, such bogus claims are now rife in the Manchester area, the court was told.

Mr Rogerson added: “This is the first case of this nature to be successfully prosecuted by Cumbria police.

“Nationally, there is a problem with these claims.”

Elizabeth Muir, for Proudfoot, said he gave the £1,900 to somebody who lent him money to pay for transport after an accident.

“He’s extremely ashamed of his actions,” she said, adding that Proudfoot was a carer for his disabled mother.

He was adamant that he was not the one to suggest the scam, and pointed out that Stirzaker did not initially want to be involved.

Greg Hoare, for Stirzaker, said the defendant was a normally industrious young man but one who had a capacity for “stupid decisions”.

Keith Thomas, for Patterson said the offence was a one-off for his client.

Judge Barbara Forrester told the three men: “I will make an example of you, and make it clear to other people who think of becoming involved in this type of matter that the courts will not tolerate them and will impose serious sentences.”

As well as being given eight-month jail terms, suspended for 24 months, the men were also given 12 months supervision, and unpaid work in the community: 100 hours for Patterson, and 200 hours each for Proudfoot and Stirzaker.

All three men were told they were lucky not to have been facing more serious charges.

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