How compo fraudsters could face jail in perjury crackdown
Offence of perjury being examined as fake injuries pushing up premium costs
The Department of Justice is looking at strengthening the law to clamp down on people lying for cash in personal injuries claims.
Proposals include bolstering the legal status of the insurance claims form so that lying would amount to perjury - which could ultimately result in a fine or jail sentence for perjurers.
The department is doing an analysis of the need for a new statutory offence of perjury - currently it is a common law offence - and it is very difficult to prosecute insurance fraudsters who lie.
But pressure is growing on Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan to rapidly introduce a statutory offence of perjury.
Mr Flanagan's department is examining whether the law needs to be strengthened to create the statutory offence of perjury, something that is in place in other common law jurisdictions.
It comes after pressure from small and medium-sized business group Isme, which claims that strengthening the laws around perjury would make it easier to prosecute professional claimants who make up injury claims for cash.
Isme chief executive Neil McDonnell said he was disappointed Mr Flanagan's officials were only examining the option of creating a offence, instead of committing to it.
Isme made a detailed submission to the department in a bid to tackle false and exaggerated injury claims.
Mr McDonnell said Ireland was the only common law jurisdiction that did not have a statutory offence of perjury.
"The claims situation is running out of control and needs to be addressed," Mr McDonnell said.
"We have to have the bottle to call a lie a lie. It is completely unacceptable that Irish law facilitates the rip-off of Irish businesses and Irish motorists through false and exaggerated claims."
The absence of a statutory offence of perjury means prosecutions for perjury are very rare. If perjury was categorised as a statutory offence, it would mean that on conviction a person could face jail time or at the very least a hefty fine.
Legal researchers employed by Isme could only find one case of a person being prosecuted for perjury. "We want to flag to judges that it is not acceptable to tell lies to extract money," Mr McDonnell said.
A spokesman for Mr Flanagan said that an offence of perjury was already in common law, and there have been prosecutions under it.
"Notwithstanding this, Minister Flanagan has asked officials to examine the case made by Isme for a statutory offence of perjury, in consultation with relevant authorities," the spokesman said.
The call comes after recent market research carried out by Amárach and commissioned by Insurance Ireland found half of those surveyed believed there were few downsides to making a false or exaggerated claim.
Fraudulent activity costs the general insurance industry €200m a year. This costs the average motorist €50 a year.
Some put the cost at a higher level. It is cited as one of the key reasons that motor insurance premiums have shot up by a combined 70pc in the past three years, according to Department of Finance figures.
The pressure to come down harder on career claimants and those who exaggerate personal injuries comes as fast-food chain Supermac's has advertised for a claims manager. Owner Pat McDonagh said he supported the call for a statutory law of perjury.
"There are around 35 claims a year in the 120 Supermac's outlets in this country. That is up 20pc in the last two years," he added.