Council takes false claimant to court for contempt

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The Independent Online

A keen footballer who claimed compensation for injuring himself after tripping on a pothole is being sued by the council he tried to take to court.

Matthew Hughes, 23, of Pontlottyn, near Caerphilly, south Wales, had asked for £10,000 after claiming his injury prevented him from playing football. But at a hearing last year on the eve of a full civil case, Caerphilly county borough council revealed it had evidence that Mr Hughes had continued to play soccer and the case was withdrawn.

And yesterday the council hit back in a unique civil case, alleging that Mr Hughes and two friends, who backed up his compensation story, had committed a contempt of court.

Mr Hughes, together with Christian Rowlands, 34 and Jaimie Verity, 26, deny the charge. If found guilty all three men could be jailed.

A judge at Swansea Civil Justice Centre heard that Mr Hughes claimed he had tripped on a pothole in September 2001 and seriously injured his knee.

Both Mr Verity and Mr Rowlands supported that claim in statements made by them and also by Mr Hughes 18 months after the injury. But Mr Hughes admitted yesterdaythat a substantial part of his original statement had been untrue.

He said he had continued to play football and had even scored a goal on the day of the alleged pothole injury, before being taken off with an injury.

Investigations undertaken by Caerphilly Council had uncovered a report of the match in a September 2001 copy of the Rhymney Valley Express, which also mentioned his injury.

A colour photograph was produced in court yesterday showing Hughes in a team line-up of players with him kneeling on his allegedly injured knee. Team sheets also showed he had played 29 separate matches at a time when he claimed he was unable to play at all.

Mr Hughes said he had been advised by friends and family at the time of making the claim not to mention playing football or becoming injured. "When I tripped and hurt myself I did not think it was that bad," Mr Hughes told the court. "I have had knocks everywhere on my body and I thought I could run this off."

Mr Justice Shibler will deliver judgment today.