Pat Laffan, a 61-year-old father of four from Tullovin, Croom, in Co Limerick, pleaded guilty at Limerick Circuit Court to a charge of trying to make gain by deceit on the sum of €52,000 from Axa insurance.
Evidence was given that Laffan owned a 12 C reg Mercedes, on which he had taken out a policy with Axa.
The policy provided that he would get full replacement value of the car in the event of anything happening to it.
On December 15, 2013, the PSNI received a complaint from Laffan that, while he was on his way to do some Christmas shopping in Newry, he was forced to stop on a motorway near Newtonards by a number of men. He alleged they called him a ‘Fenian bastard’ before driving off with his car.
Laffan made it on foot to a PSNI police station, where he lodged a complaint. The following day he submitted a formal claim to Axa.
Axa commenced their own investigation and Laffan became annoyed that the claim was not proceeding quickly enough and threatened to engage his solicitor.
In January 2014, the investigator hired by Axa received information about a car being stored in a garage in Limerick and Laffan’s Mercedes was found there without its number plates. The garage owner said he knew Laffan, who had asked him to keep the car while he awaited parts to repair the gear box.
In March 2014, Laffan, who was still unaware of the information which the insurance company and the gardaí had obtained, insisted that Axa process his claim more vigorously.
The court heard that Laffan, who had been a credit union director, was under financial pressure at the time.
Judge Tom O’Donnell said Laffan tried to make financial gain in a very brazen manner.
He had caused a considerable waste of PSNI time as the force had to go through hours of CCTV in trying to investigate Laffan’s allegation of having been hijacked.
Laffan had no previous convictions but Judge O’Donnell said Laffan’s crime had consequences for his standing in the community.
The judge imposed an 18-month suspended sentence and ordered the forfeiture of the car. Judge O’Donnell ordered that 50% of the sale value of the car should go to the PSNI benevolent association and the remainder to the State.
After sentence was passed, Laffan said: “Thank you judge, I would like to apologise.”