Crash for cash death sentencing - Denham

15/02/2013

Five people appeared at Reading Crown Court today, Friday, 15 February 2013, and were sentenced for their involvement in a fatal road traffic collision which happened in Denham on 11 June 2011.

The landmark case, investigated by Thames Valley Police, concluded today at Reading Crown Court and is the first of its kind in the country as the deliberately-caused accident arranged as part of a plan to commit insurance fraud led to a second collision causing the death of an innocent member of the public.

Andrzej Boguslaw Skowron, aged 25, from Shelley Gardens, Wembley, was jailed for 10 years for causing death by dangerous driving, and conspiracy to commit fraud.

Radoslaw Piotr Bielawski, aged 24, from Rosewood Avenue, Greenford, was jailed for 10 years three months for causing death by dangerous driving, conspiracy to commit fraud, and doing acts tending to pervert the course of justice.

Jacek Kowalczyk, aged 32, from Fraser Road, Perivale, Greenford, was jailed for 10 years three months for causing death by dangerous driving, conspiracy to commit fraud, and doing acts tending to pervert the course of justice.

Artur Okrutny, aged 23, from Briar Road, London, was jailed for 12 months for doing acts tending to pervert the course of justice.

Colin Lee, aged 32, from York Place, Aylesbury, was jailed for 12 months for causing death by careless driving. Lee was not involved in the plans to stage a collision for financial greed, but was the driver of the van that fatally collided with the victim.

The incident happened at around 8.25pm on Saturday, 11 June 2011, on the A40 Western Avenue, between the Swakeley roundabout and Denham, heading out of London.

Two collisions took place in short succession of each other in lane three. The first was a deliberate act where the Polish defendants used a Volkswagen Passat and an Audi A3 to perform a dangerous manoeuvre to ensure that a collision occurred with an innocent Ford Transit Van and a Ford Fiesta, in order to claim personal injury compensation.

This staged collision then led to a second collision between a Renault Traffic van and the Fiesta, which resulted in the death of Miss Baljinder Kaur Gill, aged 34, from Stanwell, near Staines.

Baljit Ubhey OBE, Chief Crown Prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: "This case involved the staging of a road traffic collision for financial gain, which caused the death of an innocent motorist, Miss Baljinder Kaur Gill.

"Miss Gill lost her life on 11 June 2011, as a consequence of the coming together of two criminal events.  Firstly, ruthless greed on the part of a gang of men, which led to them choosing the outside lane of the fast moving A40 to contrive their collision, so that they could profit financially from the submission of fraudulent insurance claims.  Secondly, the careless driving of Colin Lee, which led him to driving into Miss Gill's stationary vehicle at a speed in excess of 50mph, causing her immediate death.

"Her death was Britain's first fatality as a result of 'crash for cash.'  An earlier report from the Insurance Fraud Bureau warned it was merely a matter of time before a death occurred on British roads - sadly prophetic words. The location chosen for the staged collision created an obvious risk that an innocent motorist would be killed as a result of their greed.

"According to figures from the Insurance Fraud Bureau, the annual cost to the motor industry of 'crash for cash' is of the order of £392 million. The risk that these defendants took with the lives of innocent motorists such as Miss Gill was enormous. The potential advantage to them was comparatively small. They selfishly placed their own financial gain over and above the life of Miss Gill.

"The 'crash for cash' scam has increasingly blighted the roads of the UK in the last few years, placing innocent road users in unnecessary peril. Annually in excess of 69,000 personal injury claims are suspected of being 'crash for cash.'  The result of this case sends a clear message to those who might consider becoming involved in similar activities that they not only risk the lives of innocent members of the community, but they will be brought robustly to justice.

"As a result of the hard work and diligence of the prosecution team, and especially Sergeant Upton and PC Gibson, justice has been achieved for the victim and her family and friends. The officers, from Thames Valley Police's Road Death Investigation Team, determined that this was a 'crash for cash' case at an early stage and thereafter pursued what was a complex fraud investigation.

"We hope that today's sentences will in some way help Miss Gill's family and friends come to terms with this tragic event. However, we acknowledge that nothing can make up for the loss felt by the family and friends of Miss Gill and our thoughts are very much with them at this difficult time."

Sergeant James Upton, from the Thames Valley Police Road Death Investigation Team, said: "The crash for cash culture has become more prevalent in our society, but this is the first known fatality as a result of an induced crash. Today's sentences should serve as a warning that there are severe consequences to those who commit this crime.

"The criminals who planned this crash had a total disregard for the safety of the innocent people they targeted. They also had the audacity to try to fraudulently claim compensation two days after the collision in the knowledge that an innocent person had died.

"Thames Valley Police and our partners are absolutely determined to identify and dismantle this type of organised criminality, bring the offenders to justice and keep our roads safe."

Phil Bird, Director of the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) said: "Crash for cash fraudsters gamble with the lives of UK motorists by deliberately causing crashes for financial gain. This dangerous crime has now cost a young, innocent motorist her life - it must be stopped. Locking up 'crash for cash' gangs not only takes reckless people off our roads, it also sends a message to fraudsters that this crime is not victimless, and will not be tolerated."