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Winnifred Lawrence of Moorefield Grove, Clondalkin, Dublin, pictured at the Criminal Courts of Justice for her sentence hearing irishphotodesk.ie
Insurance

Woman (74) jailed for making six false personal injury claims worth over €28,000

The judge said there had to be general deterrence to this type of offence as it was a ‘fraud on ordinary people who have to take out insurance’.

A WOMAN WHO received tens of thousands of euro in compensation after making false personal injury claims over a decade ago has been jailed.

Winnifred Lawrence (74) made personal injury claims using a false name, Margaret Mongan, on six different occasions between September 2012 and May 2014.

The court heard that these six personal injury claims were all processed by the same solicitor.

Compensation money was paid out by insurance companies in relation to the first three claims totalling €28,310, with Lawrence receiving a net sum of €23,185.50 after legal expenses. 

She pleaded guilty to three counts of making a gain for herself or causing a loss to another by deception on dates between September 2012 and May 2014. 

Lawrence has three previous convictions, including one for a similar offence for which she received a three-year suspended sentence in 2019.

After hearing facts today, Judge Pauline Codd said a “significant” amount of money was involved, of which Lawrence had been the main beneficiary.

Judge Codd said there had to be general deterrence to this type of offence as it was “a fraud on ordinary people who have to take out insurance and protect themselves against risk”.

She also noted that insurance was a “big factor” for public bodies and other bodies who can face “enormous payouts”.

She said the court took into account Lawrence’s guilty plea and that she “seems to have learnt her lesson” as she has not re-offended since her previous conviction.

Judge Codd also noted Lawrence’s personal circumstances, poor health and age.

She imposed a sentence of three and a half years with the final 18 months suspended to mark Lawrence’s ill health.

After sentencing, Lawrence addressed Judge Codd saying she was “very sorry”, and it would “never happen again”.

“I know Ms Lawrence, but you have to be punished for what you did,” Judge Codd replied.

The court heard Lawrence made a personal injury claim against Tesco Ireland, claiming to have slipped on a substance on the ground in a shop.

Liberty Insurance paid out €12,460, of which Lawrence received €10,000.

AIG Europe also paid €9,600 for a trip-and-fall personal injury claim after Lawrence said she slipped on a substance in a Book Value bookshop. The net total she received was €8,185.50.

In 2014, CIE paid €6,250 in compensation for a personal injury claim after Lawrence said she received burns to her left leg from heater while travelling on a number 40 Dublin Bus.

Lawrence received a net figure of €5,000.

Detective Garda Ivor Scully of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau outlined to the court that Lawrence made three further false personal injury claims during this period, which were not successful.

These included a claim to CIE after Lawrence said she tripped getting off a bus and two separate claims to IPB insurance company relating to trips and falls in Lucan and Leixlip.

Det Gda Scully told Sinead McMullan BL, prosecuting, that the garda investigation began after they were contacted by an anti-fraud specialist working for IPB who had carried out an internal investigation.

Lawrence’s home at Moorefield Grove, Clondalkin, Dublin 22 was searched under warrant in 2019, along with the solicitors’ premises, where six claim files in the name of Margaret Mongan were seized, along with a separate personal injury claim file in Lawrence’s name, dating from 2006.

The solicitors’ files contained authorisations for the claims made by Margaret Mongan to be paid to Lawrence.

Gardaí also established that addresses used in the Margaret Mongan claims were associated with Lawrence.

During the investigation, gardaí also found photographic evidence of Lawrence meeting an engineer for an insurance company while holding herself out to be Mongan.

Medical reports and other documents for claims in the name of Mongan were also linked to Lawrence.

Lawrence was arrested in 2019 and interviewed four times by gardaí during which she denied the allegations.

Det Scully agreed with Garnet Orange SC, defending, that his client’s previous conviction was of a similar nature, but that it didn’t succeed.

Det Scully accepted the defence’s suggestion that Lawrence has practically no education and is illiterate.

It was further agreed that the solicitor played a role, but Det Scully noted that Lawrence was the “significant beneficiary”.

Orange submitted to the court that his client’s personal injury claims “couldn’t have gone anywhere without inside knowledge of how system operates,” and asked Judge Codd to consider the context of his client’s role.

He said his client has 14 children, two of whom have passed away, and one of her sons was in court to support her.

She is from a Traveller background.

Orange said his client is in poor health and a medical report was handed to the court.

He asked Judge Codd to take into account the guilty plea and that there has been no further offending since Lawrence received a suspended sentence in 2019.

Imposing sentence, Judge Codd noted that the defence suggested Lawrence was a “tool” of the other party, but “clearly one could not have operated without the other”.

The judge said Lawrence represented herself as Mongan on various occasions and was also “the beneficiary of a significant amount of money relative to the amount of each claim, in that sense, she had a lot to gain”.

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