A Father claiming £1million damages over a workplace injury was secretly filmed by surveillance specialists playing rugby. David Ribchester, 31, claimed he needed help with basic tasks after work fall but he was filmed playing sport, carrying shopping and assembling furniture. The Judge gave an eight-month sentence, saying dishonesty may be ‘endemic’

David Ribchester, 31, was jailed for eight months yesterday for pretending he could not drive, carry shopping bags or pick up his baby daughter after he fell 5ft from a ladder and hurt his wrists at work in 2006.

He put in a ‘nonsense’ claim for £923,000 for a carer for himself and his only daughter until she was 12.

But insurers RSA Group were suspicious and hired private detectives who secretly filmed him out and about.

He carried shopping and drove on several occasions, put together a plastic garden table and played the drums as well as training at a rugby club near his home in Washington, Tyne and Wear.

Despite saying he ‘did not feel like a proper father as he had been unable to pick up his daughter since her birth’, he was captured picking her and other children up in recordings made between 2008 and 2010.

Ribchester, who could rightly have claimed a smaller sum, admitted he ‘got carried away’.

Old Bailey Judge Nicholas Cooke QC said ‘greed’ led the fraudster to try to persuade experts that he had a ‘dire prognosis’.

He said: ‘Injured people putting forward wholly honest claims are viewed sceptically because of the publicity in relation to these sorts of cases. There must be a deterrent.

‘Anyone tempted to act dishonestly and exploit our systems which exist to compensate the genuinely injured will end up in prison.’
The court heard Ribchester told doctors he needed help with his personal care including getting in and out of the bath and that he could not open jars, carry out housework, play the drums or drive his car.

He also conned psychiatrists into thinking he was emotionally scarred by the accident and was diagnosed with moderate post-traumatic stress disorder, with features of a major depressive disorder.

But insurers became suspicious after his injuries seemed to be getting worse over time, and referred him to their in-house counter fraud team who carried out surveillance.

Between February 2008 and October 2009, he was filmed on a number of occasions driving his car, carrying his daughter, constructing garden furniture, pushing a trolley, and loading and unloading heavy shopping bags

Prosecutor James Byrne told the court that on October 10, 2009, Ribchester was filmed watching rugby at the club, before being seen taking part in non-contact training the next day.

Then on October 24, he was filmed joining in training, where he was seen to tackle another player.

The judge added: ‘It costs a lot of money to set up surveillance operations, to have contacted the fraud department in the insurance company. Such things probably didn’t exist decades ago, such is the extent that dishonesty may have become endemic in this world.’

The court heard Ribchester had genuine soft tissue damage to both wrists after he fell around 5ft to the ground when a ladder came away from a refrigerated HGV lorry owned by Schmitz Cargobull in Durham.

Old Bailey Judge Nicholas Cooke QC said it was his ‘greed’ that had brought him before the courts.

Sentencing him the judge said it was a ‘sad case’ but he could not spare him jail as he needed to send out a deterrent to fraudsters who might be tempted to make bogus claims in the future.
Ribchester, of Washington, Tyne and Wear, showed no emotion as the sentence of eight months in prison was passed.

Sec Tech UK Comment: Over the years we’ve spoken to many HR professionals who believe that surveillance is unethical but this case clearly demonstrates that to prevent employers bearing unfair and potentially damaging costs because of employees purporting to be sick who are in fact fit for work, surveillance can be a useful tool to be used in an Employer’s defence.