Fish in a barrel – evidence on social media sends claimant to prison

Last week saw yet another case where evidence on social media contradicted a claim made by a party to litigation. You have to wonder when people will catch on to the public nature of such posts and their implications when they conflict with other evidence.

The story appears in this article from the Telegraph and this more detailed one from Metro. The claimant, Lesley Elder, had indeed suffered injury as a result of unnecessary surgery, and the NHS trust admitted liability. The argument was about quantum. The woman claimed £2.5 million, alleging that she suffered from constant pain and that she was unable to work, travel, or do routine tasks without help; the court awarded her £120,000.

Elder’s claim to a much larger sum was undermined in part by old-fashioned surveillance, which showed that she went shopping and walked her dog without a stick. The main evidence against her (or, at least, the part which won most attention) was that social media photographs showed that she had “fully participated” in her daughter’s hen party in Ibiza, a party she said she had been unable to attend.

This did more than lose her the extravagant amount of her claim. The judge said:

This was deliberate and persistent making of false statements for the purpose of falsely recovering significant monies from a publicly-funded body.

…and sentenced her to five months in prison.

I have no idea if Elder was represented, or whether her lawyers (if she had them) checked her story and advised her of the implications. They certainly should have done. Some discovery exercises need hard work and technical skill. Getting pictures from social media is like shooting fish in a barrel


About Chris Dale

I have been an English solicitor since 1980. I run the e-Disclosure Information Project which collects and comments on information about electronic disclosure / eDiscovery and related subjects in the UK, the US, AsiaPac and elsewhere
This entry was posted in Discovery, eDisclosure, eDiscovery, Electronic disclosure, Evidence, Social Media. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Fish in a barrel – evidence on social media sends claimant to prison

  1. Vince says:

    Great article Chris. As you know, I am concerned that Social Media (or perhaps any digital comms beyond email) are not properly assessed as the rich pools of evidence that they may be. Shooting fish in a barrel is troublesome, but I am encouraged that someone at least checked the barrels for fish!

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