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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 December 2005, 20:32 GMT
'Own goal' over pothole trip case
Matthew Hughes in team photo
Mr Hughes said the injury prevented him playing football
A man has been sentenced to two weeks in jail for trying to sue a council for 10,000 after falsely claiming he injured his leg tripping on a pavement.

In fact, Matthew Hughes, 26, from Pontlottyn, near Caerphilly, was injured playing football later that day, the court heard.

Hughes and two friends were found guilty of contempt of court at Swansea Civil Justice Centre.

His friends, Christian Rowlands and Jamie Verity, were each fined 1,500.

In addition to the jail term, the court heard today that Hughes's criminal compensation claim had cost him a total of 33,000 - including 22,000 in overall council costs covering the proceedings and all other associated prosecution costs.

The unique civil case, brought against the men by Caerphilly County Borough Council, began on Monday.

The case heard how Hughes was accused of telling a "pack of lies" when he claimed he had tripped on a pothole in September 2001, seriously injuring his knee.

Matthew Hughes
Mr Hughes claimed the pothole fall had prevented him playing football

He decided to take the council to court claiming the injury had stopped him playing football, a game he had enjoyed playing regularly.

Two of his friends, Jamie Verity, 26, and Christian Rowlands, 34, supported his claim in statements when Hughes applied for compensation 18 months later.

But at the end of a hearing in 2004, the council revealed it had evidence that Hughes had indeed continued playing football. The compensation case was dropped.

It emerged that Hughes had played football on the day he claimed he tripped.

The court heard that investigations by the council found a report of the match in a copy of a local paper, which mentioned his goal scoring exploits.

A photograph was also produced in court, taken one hour after Hughes claimed he had been injured. In it he is pictured kneeling on his injured knee in a pre-match line-up.

You decided to invent an accident to claim money from the council
William Audland, for Caerphilly council

Team sheets covering two seasons showed he had played 29 matches during a time he claimed he was too injured to play.

William Audland, representing the council, told Hughes: "You decided to invent an accident to claim money from the council.

"Your statement that you injured yourself in a pothole is a complete fabrication."

Mr Hughes told the court he was advised by friends and family at the time of making the claim not to mention playing football on the day of the fall.

Jamie Verity and Christian Rowlands
Jamie Verity and Christian Rowlands supported Hughes' claim

"When I tripped and hurt myself I did not think it was that bad," Hughes said.

"I went home and the boys called me then to go to football. I have had knocks everywhere on my body and I thought I could run this off."

Hughes also dismissed the allegation that he had lied about never having played football again after the injury.

"I would not call it a lie. It was wrong. It was just misleading... meant to say I was not playing regularly," he said.

All three men denied the allegation of contempt of court.

However, Hughes admitted a substantial part of his original statement had been untrue.

Judge Justice Silber told Hughes that the sentence should be seen as a deterrent to others.

"There is evidence that a very large number of false claims of this kind are made against councils and it is council taxpayers who bear the costs," he said.

Dayton Griffiths from Caerphilly County Borough Council said it was delighted with the decision.

"It is a victory for the honest council tax payer. It's also a vindication of the work we've been carrying out for the last few years," he said.

"Its a shame it had to come to this. We would much prefer to deal with genuine claims quickly, fairly, equitably, and get them out of the way."


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