Former cage fighter Alex Reid has been jailed for eight weeks for contempt of court after he lied in a witness statement for a compensation claim following a car crash.
The High Court heard that the 45-year-old made a county court claim for about £20,000 in compensation after an Audi driven by him was involved in a collision with another driver in January 2018.
As part of that claim, he said in a sworn statement that he did not know a motorbike rider called Darren Summers, who it was claimed had witnessed the crash.
However, the other motorist’s insurers, Axa Insurance UK, discovered an article on a local news website about an appearance Reid had made at a mixed martial arts (MMA) masterclass in Ipswich in September 2017.
The article stated that Mr Summers, a former European and world kickboxing champion, had organised the event for charity.
Reid admitted contempt of court when Axa initiated High Court committal proceedings against him in January this year.
Sentencing him to eight weeks in prison, Mrs Justice Eady said she took into account the mitigation put forward on his behalf, including that his fiancee is six months’ pregnant and he has recently been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.
However, the judge said that only a custodial term would reflect the serious nature of his dishonesty.
She said he will serve half of his sentence in prison and the remaining half on licence following his release.
At the committal hearing on Wednesday, the judge said she agreed with Axa’s description of his actions as a “plain, deliberate and dishonest attempt to interfere with the administration of justice in a material way”.
The court heard the collision happened on January 29 2018 and that Reid and the other driver blamed each other for it.
When Axa raised the allegation of dishonesty as part of the defence to Reid’s county court claim, Reid discontinued the proceedings.
Tim Sharpe, representing Axa, said the news article about the MMA masterclass made it clear Reid knew Mr Summers and that they were “more than passing acquaintances”.
He said that, in his witness statement however, Reid falsely represented that Mr Summers was an independent witness to the collision, adding that this was “no mere slip”.
The barrister said the aim of the lie was to “set Mr Summers up, in the eyes of the insurance company and the court, as someone upon whose evidence they could rely as being unconnected to the parties, offering an independent account as to the circumstances of the collision”.
He told the court: “The false statement was designed to bolster (Reid’s) chances of proving his claim on liability… and thereby of recovering some or all of his claim for damages.”
Mr Sharpe also said such fraudulent claims have an impact on honest people, as they result in higher insurance premiums and delays in investigating genuine claims.
He drew the judge’s attention to evidence from the Association of British Insurers which suggested that in 2018 there were 55,000 dishonest motor insurance claims detected, worth £629 million in total.
The court heard that, in light of Reid’s admission of contempt, Axa considered it was no longer in the public interest to bring similar proceedings against Mr Summers and withdrew the case.
Gary Pons, representing Reid, highlighted the impact a term of imprisonment would have on members of his family who rely on him for support, including his fiancee Nicola Manashe who is six months pregnant with his child.
He told the judge that a number of people who had written letters in support of Reid’s “positive good character” described his charitable works and that one referred to him as a “kind, caring and loving man”.
The barrister also drew the judge’s attention to the arduous conditions in prisons as a result of Covid-19 restrictions, which mean inmates are not allowed visits and are kept in their cells for 23 hours a day.
He argued that any custodial sentence should be suspended, given the impact of all these factors.
However, the judge said she had taken into account all that was said in mitigation on Reid’s behalf, but that it was in the interests of justice to impose an immediate sentence.
Reid was taken to the cells by the court’s tipstaff at the end of the hearing.