Case is believed to be the first private prosecution by an insurer for a public liability fraud.
A 41-year-old former law student from Dewsbury was today sentenced to 21 months for pretending to trip over a crate of orange juice cartons in a supermarket and claim for her injuries. The case is believed to be the first private prosecution in the UK by an insurance company against a so-called ‘slip-and-trip’ fraudster.
The deliberate and premeditated plan, which involved at least two other women, was aimed at obtaining money from a supermarket in Bradford. Farida Ashraf waited for eight months after her ‘accident’ before making her claim in the hope that CCTV footage would have been erased.
Judge David Hatton QC sitting at Bradford Crown Court gave Farida Ashraf, who studied law at Bradford College, a suspended jail sentence of 21 months. She will also be electronically tagged and placed under a curfew.
Praising insurer Aviva for pursuing the case, the judge said: “Fraudulent insurance claims are rife currently – certainly in this city. There has to be a deterrent in the form of a sentence of imprisonment. Employees of the supermarket were caused stress and anxiety as a finger was pointed at them for having been negligent when they clearly were not.”
He added: “This is a case properly and responsibly brought by the insurance company and one that should have been brought by CPS but that is water under bridge.”
The case was taken by Aviva after Mrs Ashraf’s original claim was thrown out of court in 2016, when CCTV footage revealed two female accomplices placing a pallet of orange juice cartons on the floor of Al-Halal supermarket in Bradford so that Ashraf could pretend to stumble over it. Ashraf then, eight months later, sent a letter to the supermarket claiming for injuries that would have cost Aviva up to £60,000. Her claim included for injuries to her right wrist even though the video showed her falling onto her left wrist.
The judge in the original case found that Ashraf had put forward a wholly fraudulent and dishonest claim. Determined to bring her to justice, Aviva – which represented the supermarket – took out a private prosecution on the basis of fraud by misrepresentation.
Damian Rourke, partner with global law firm Clyde & Co, which acted for Aviva, said: “Figures clearly show a significant increase in so-called slip-and-trip fraud. It’s important that businesses and the public know that insurers like Aviva will take proactive steps to deter and punish criminals who harm them and ultimately can cost staff their jobs.
“There a perception that nobody is doing anything about fraud – and I think it’s vital that policyholders know that insurers like Aviva are standing up for them.”
Richard Hiscocks, Aviva’s director of casualty claims, said: “This staged accident is a clear example of a fraudster trying to claim some easy cash – and she now has a criminal conviction to show for it. Aviva takes a zero-tolerance approach to fraud and we’ll do everything we can to defend our customers against such claims.”
The two women who appear to place the pallet on the floor have yet to be identified and Aviva are keen to hear from anyone that can identify them.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) reported that insurers had detected 113,000 fraudulent insurance claims in 2017 worth £1.3bn. In 2015, insurers noted a 36% rise in fraudulent slip-and-trip claims on the previous year to 27,000, worth £351m.