A claimant convicted of attempted murder should not be deprived of his right to sue the NHS for negligent care while in prison, the High Court has ruled. 

In Cojanu v Essex Partnership University NHS Trust Mr Justice Ritchie ruled that claimant Dorinel Cojanu’s dishonesty about his crime was not fundamental to either liability or quantum in the civil claim. The judge said all citizens were equally entitled to come before the courts and that the defence of fundamental dishonesty was not to be used as a ‘credibility filter’ for those with previous convictions.

Recorder Gibbons had dismissed Cojanu’s injury claim last May at Norwich County Court, finding fundamental dishonesty, but that decision was successfully appealed and the prisoner was awarded £17,750 damages.

The court heard Cojanu was admitted to Bedford prison in June 2015 with deep cuts to his right ring and little finger. He asserted the NHS trust supplying services to the prison cancelled pre-arranged surgery and delayed making arrangements for appropriate treatment.

The claimant had been jailed for 11 years for the attempted murder of his wife with an eight-inch knife. In his witness statement he still asserted that his cut fingers had been caused by his wife attacking him, and on this fact the recorder found him to be dishonest.

Bedford prison gatehouse

Cojanu was admitted to Bedford prison (pictured) with deep cuts to his right ring and little finger

Source: Alamy

Ritchie J ruled the mechanism by which Cojanu received his cut was ‘irrelevant’ to success in the claim and he did not need to prove how he was cut to win the civil action.

The judge said: 'He was injured before admission to prison. At that time he was not convicted of anything. It matters not whether he had suffered the injury opening a tin of beans, in gang warfare or whilst attempting to murder his wife.'

It was ruled that in the civil claim at first the claimant said nothing of the cause of the cuts but ‘nor did he need to’.

‘The claimant was being dishonest in relation to his crime, during which he was injured and for which he has never admitted his guilt. But the cause of the cut fingers has no relevance to the clinical negligence claim.’

As well as the award of damages, the judge awarded the appellant the costs of the appeal and of the claim, to be paid by the NHS trust on the standard basis.