Gary Burnett, a semi-professional footballer formerly playing for Northwich Victoria, has received a 4 month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, as a result of being caught out by his own tweet.
Burnett was involved in a car accident at a drive-thru McDonald’s in Birkenhead in October 2013. He subsequently issued a whiplash claim for £2,000 alleging he suffered injuries to his neck and back leaving him unable to play for Northwich Victoria for around 4 weeks. His claim was brought in to question when less than 24 hours later he tweeted, “Nice little trek to Kendal later for footy #mission #goals #vics”. He also retweeted that he had been awarded player of the month for October a few weeks later. Match reports and tweets by others at the time provided further confirmation that he had in fact not suffered any loss of playing time.
After Burnett withdrew his claim, insurance company Aviva continued to pursue costs and were awarded £11,000 after Wigan County Court determined that his claim was fundamentally dishonest. A hearing took place in the High Court last week in which Burnett admitted to being in contempt of court and was handed a suspended sentence. Mr Justice Jay added that “a deterrent sentence is called for even if low value, there is no alternative but for a custodial term”.
The case sends a warning against bringing dishonest claims in the hope of obtaining some form of compensation. It also highlights that personal tweets and other social media posts and reports can and will be relied upon in court as evidence and shows how damaging, or indeed rewarding for the other side, a simple tweet can be.
If you require advice about any publications by or about you online or elsewhere, or indeed wish to discuss your prospects of success prior to issuing a claim then please feel free to contact our team at Griffin Law.