A father who claimed he needed a wheelchair but was secretly filmed unloading a furniture van has been jailed and ‘financially ruined’ over his £1.5million compensation scam against the
In antics reminiscent of Little Britain character Andy Pipkin, Darren Dommett, 49, was caught lugging heavy flatpack furniture from a delivery van to his Grimsby home, despite claiming he could barely walk due to medical blunders.
Dommett claimed NHS doctors’ delay in treating a nerve condition in his back had left him severely disabled, requiring a wheelchair or walking frame to get around, and totally dependent on others’ care.
But similar to sketch-show character Andy, who famously leaps up from his wheelchair whenever his carer’s back is turned, Dommett was proved to be a liar as by the time of the filming he had ‘absolutely no need for a wheelchair.’
He admitted contempt of court and was jailed for 29 weeks by Judge Nigel Lickley QC at the High Court, after faking symptoms to fuel a massive damages claim against the NHS.
He will also have to pay the NHS at least £85,000 in costs and repayment of wrongly paid compensation, with much more to come if he has to pay lawyers’ bills of the contempt of court case too.
Darren Dommett, 49, (pictured) exaggerated his disability in a claim over delays in treatment for a back problem he had in 2013, as he tried to seek £1.5million in damaged from the NHS
Dommett was caught moving flat pack furniture unaided and sharing holiday snaps without a wheelchair on social media after NHS investigators grew suspicious about the size of his claim
His barrister, Andrew Locke, told the judge the case had left Dommett, a father-of-two and fanatical Arsenal supporter, ‘ruined both financially and personally’.
The court heard Dommett had suffered a genuine compressed nerve condition in his back, called cauda equina syndrome, in 2013 and went to doctors.
But A&E medics at the Diana, Princess of Wales Hospital, in Grimsby, failed to immediately spot the symptoms and it was days later that he was diagnosed and treated for the condition, which can leave sufferers paralysed if not treated quickly.
The Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust admitted liability for the delay, but were suspicious of the size of Dommett’s claim, which was put at more than £1.5million, and potentially over £2million.
The father claimed his disability meant he could barely walk and needed a wheelchair or a walking frame to get around but was later filmed moving flat pack furniture from a van
Dommett claimed he had been left unable to walk far without a walking frame or wheelchair and was largely confined to a sedentary life in front of the TV.
In a filmed examination at his home, Dommett struggled to stand unaided and appeared to have great trouble walking or getting up stairs.
But NHS barrister James Todd QC told the judge the NHS had launched covert surveillance of the father on several days in 2017.
The footage shows him unloading three packs of flatpack furniture from a delivery van, getting in an out of his Land Rover and going shopping with his wife.
‘For most of this period of surveillance, the defendant is either walking or standing…there is no sign of fatigue or a change in the defendant’s gait.
‘The defendant is seen on his driveway taking delivery of some cardboard packages that appear to be the components of a flatpack furniture set which includes a glass-top table.
‘The defendant carries three of the packages, one by one, from the rear of a van into his house. He carries what appears to be the heaviest of the parcels.’
Evidence from social media also showed he had exaggerated his disability, the barrister added, with photos from a family holiday in Spain with no wheelchair or walking frame in sight.
Mr Todd said that, in actual fact, Mr Dommett had made a ‘good recovery’ and by 2017 was ‘grossly exaggerating’ or ‘fabricating’ symptoms to boost his claim.
Dommett did not immediately admit his lies, but eventually pleaded guilty to contempt of court in making false statements to experts about his level of disability.
‘When he made those statements and representations, he was not suffering from significant pain and disability,’ said Mr Todd.
The court heard Dommett had made a good recovery from his condition by 2017 despite his claims that he was left permanently disabled. Pictured: Dommett moving furniture from a van
‘He had made a very good recovery from his cauda equina syndrome.
‘He could sit, stand, walk and move freely, normally and for long periods – and without the need for support or the use of a walking stick.
‘He had absolutely no need for a wheelchair.’
Mitigating on Dommett’s behalf, Mr Locke said the compensation bid was genuine to start with, that he had suffered some disability, and that he had been plagued with other medical problems.
Although by 2017 there was no ‘medical need’ for it, he had genuinely used a wheelchair for a time after his cauda equina syndrome.
‘It is common ground that Mr Dommett’s claim was initially a genuine one with genuine and very distressing injuries,’ he told the judge.
A high court judge jailed Dommett for 29 weeks after he admitted making false statements
‘The element of fabrication came later. Although there was a deliberate effort to mislead the experts and the courts, it was not sophisticated.’
He was a proud working class man and the genuine effects of the nerve condition on his ability to do physical work had been hard on him, said the barrister.
Sentencing, Judge Lickley ruled that only an immediate term of imprisonment could be justified for the serious false statements made by Dommett in his claim.
He sentenced him to 29 weeks’ imprisonment.
He will also have to pay the NHS’ £65,000 costs of defending the original claim, and repay £20,000 in wrongly paid out compensation.
He may also have to stump up to cover the NHS’ five-figure costs of having him jailed, but the judge will rule on that issue at a later date.
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