A mother-of-two who crashed her hire car into a wall while drunk before filing a £12,000 insurance claim and alleging it had been stolen was caught out when her DNA was found on the air bag which had inflated during the impact.
Rebecca Ferris, 37, admitted charges of perverting the course of justice and fraud by false representation and was sentenced at Manchester Crown Court yesterday.
Ferris failed to negotiate a right-hand bend and crashed a VW Golf into a wall in Eccles, Greater Manchester, in the early hours of February 15, 2019, the court heard.
She told one eyewitness: ‘It’s my car. I was driving it. I was trying to get away from my boyfriend.
‘I was drinking all night, far too much to be driving. Please don’t call the police.’
Officers exposed the scam after Ferris’ DNA was found on an airbag. It also emerged that an insurance company paid £12,084 to the charity, Motability, which owned the disability car.
Recorder Michael Maher handed Ferris 12 months in prison but decided to suspend the sentence ‘by a hair’s breadth’ after hearing of the impact it would have on her teenage daughter who has learning disabilities.
Rebecca Ferris (pictured above), 37, admitted charges of perverting the course of justice and fraud by false representation and was sentenced at Manchester Crown Court yesterday
Harriet Tighe, prosecuting, said a woman working in a nearby residential care home heard the collision and rushed out to the scene believing someone may have needed medical assistance.
She said: ‘The witness approached the vehicle and found the airbags activated and seconds later, a woman appeared from behind the vehicle. The witness said she could smell alcohol on her breath and the defendant admitted she had been the driver.
‘Police were flagged down at the scene and saw a woman walking away from the collision. Later that day, the defendant reported the car had been stolen in a burglary.
‘She was given a warning as officers doubted the validity of the report, and they advised the defendant to think long and hard before continuing with the allegation.
‘But she maintained the car was stolen in a burglary and the officer then discovered that the defendant had reported the theft to the insurance company with a sworn declaration.’
The Motability car was hired to Mr Haining due to his own disabilities and Ferris was a named driver on the insurance policy, the court heard.
In a statement, Mr Haining said he had been receiving welfare benefit claims for approximately a year and there was no suggestion he should not have been in receipt of the VW.
Ms Tighe added: ‘The officer put together a CCTV compilation, which effectively set out where the accident happened, the proximity to the defendant’s address and some stills of the defendant leaving the scene.
Ferris (above) failed to negotiate a right-hand bend and crashed a VW Golf into a wall in Eccles, Greater Manchester, in the early hours of February 15, 2019, the court heard
‘Both Mr Haining and the defendant have given a statement to the insurance company regarding the burglary.
‘Captured on the airbag, which was activated at the time of the collision, there was DNA found which matched that of the defendant.’
While payment of £12,084 was made out, it was paid to the company which owned the car.
Ferris claimed she had gone out in the car after her and boyfriend, Wesley Haining, returned home from their romantic meal only to have a row with her daughter.
In mitigation, defence lawyer Michael Johnson said: ‘She was confronted with a volatile situation at home. Her daughter was behaving in a way that she can do at times. Mr Haining wasn’t being sympathetic to that situation.
‘She felt, herself, overwhelmed by the circumstances of that particular time and for reasons she bitterly regrets or cannot really explain, she left the house and took the car and drove away at 11pm.
‘She is not still with Mr Haining. This deception was not sophisticated or well planned and the police did not take her burglary claim particularly seriously. It came as something of a surprise when it was revealed that there had been a payout on the policy. I am under very clear instruction that she did not benefit financially.’
Ferris was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months.
Ferris was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, and disqualified from driving for six months (pictured: file photo of Manchester Crown Court)
Sentencing Ferris, Judge Maher told her: ‘You ploughed into a wall at speed. Mercifully, no pedestrians or other road users were hurt otherwise you would be appearing in court for an even more serious charge.
‘It follows that having left the house at 11pm you had been driving intermittently for the thick end of three hours with a significant quantity of alcohol in your system.
‘I find that to be a serious aggravating factor.’
Judge Maher said he believes Ferris left the house while drunk because of the ‘pressures’ in her home life.
But he said police had wasted valuable time and resources investigating her false report of burglary, adding that it was ‘time and money that could have been spent on genuine crimes and genuine victims.’
Imposing the suspended prison sentence, Judge Maher added: ‘It is by a hair’s breadth that I am going to suspend that imprisonment.
‘You owe Mr Johnson a debt of gratitude.’
Ferris was also disqualified from driving for six months and must pay a victim surcharge.