The submission of deliberately misleading or dishonest evidence by any party involved in litigation is clearly a very serious matter.
However, the onus on ‘experts’, particularly medical experts given the high ethical standards their profession demands, to give fulsome and honest testimony to assist the Court is arguably sacrosanct. Unfortunately, it appears that this is not always the case and the courts are adopting an increasingly hard line whenever such conduct is uncovered as evidenced by the recent Court of Appeal (CA) decision in Liverpool Victoria Insurance Company Ltd v Zafar.
In that matter, the CA handed down a particularly scathing judgment where a GP (Dr Zafar), who lied and signed a false witness report relating to a road traffic accident, was initially handed a six month suspended sentence at first instance. Dr Zafar, without seemingly batting an eyelid, had acquiesced in a request from his instructing solicitor to amend his original medical report relating to a road traffic injury by liberally extending the estimated recovery time from one week to six to eight months. The newly manufactured report was dated on the same date as the original report, contained no reference to it and was littered with other inaccuracies. His extraordinary conduct was only uncovered when his instructing solicitor inadvertently, and somewhat foolishly, included the original report in the trial bundle.
Dr Zafar, who was described by the CA as “weak and cowardly”, was found to have had a practice whereby he produced medical reports on a near-industrial scale, often to bolster the cases of claimants in personal injury cases. The reason for the appeal was the plaintiff’s view that the sentence had been far too lenient. The CA agreed and said Dr Khan’s sentence should have been longer and served immediately – a clear warning shot to others engaged in the same conduct.
However, they opted not to jail Dr Khan, who unsurprisingly now faces a Medical Council investigation, concluding that their judgment could only provide guidance which was not previously available to those sentencing for contempt of court.
The solicitor who engaged the GP was jailed for 15 months.