Wednesday 19 June 2019

Fraudsters will 'never face prosecution without dedicated Garda unit'

 

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Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

The decision to abandon plans for a dedicated Garda insurance fraud unit will mean many fraudsters will never face prosecution.

Claims-chancers will just appeal cases they lose in the hope insurers will settle up, according to the head of fraud investigations at Aviva.

This is because of the huge expense involved in fighting cases, especially when they are appealed, said Rob Smyth.

The setting up of a centralised Garda fraud unit was a key recommendation of the State's Cost of Insurance Working Group.

Its establishment was endorsed by the Government-appointed Personal Injuries Commissions, which was tasked with ways of looking at the high cost of claims.

Insurers had originally agreed to fund the Garda unit, along the lines of a similar unit in Britain which has proved hugely successful at catching insurance fraudsters. But there was later unease at gardaí being funded by insurers.

After reservations were expressed by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris about insurance funding for his force, it was decided to shelve plans for a dedicated Garda unit.

Instead, insurance fraud cases will be handled at local levels in the force.

The Garda National Economic Crime Bureau will guide Garda divisions, and take on larger cases.

"The finality of the recent decision to abandon plans for a dedicated Garda insurance fraud unit is disappointing," said Mr Smyth, who added that it was a sign of yet another signal of the "stalled-road to much-needed reform of the personal injuries landscape".

Co-operation

Mr Smyth, who spent 30 years in An Garda Síochána, said tackling insurance fraud required co-operation between private companies and the public sector.

He said Aviva's fraud team were probing claims made by between 40 and 50 people who were due before the courts.

"Defending these types of personal injury claims is the right thing to do for insurance companies, our policyholders and citizens.

"We have successfully defended almost 80pc of these claims," he said.

"However, in the absence of a dedicated Garda fraud unit, unfortunately many fraudulent claimants will never face the consequences of their actions."

He said the combination of the high levels of compensation, legal costs and the challenges of tackling fraud were affecting premium costs for consumers and businesses.

Irish Independent

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