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A young Surrey grave digger who claimed to have suffered serious back injuries while excavating an eight-feet-deep ...
A young Surrey grave digger who claimed to have suffered serious back injuries while excavating an eight-feet-deep grave, had his case thrown out of London's High Court today. Anthony Arthur Jezeph, 30, was dubbed an 'unimpressive and unreliable witness' by Judge Patrick Bennett QC who dismissed his negligence claims against Richmond Upon Thames LBC.

The judge said he had 'serious doubts about when and exactly what happened' at Twickenham Cemetery on December 6 1988 when Mr Jezeph claimed to have severely wrenched his back. 'I am not satisfied that I can place reliance on his recollection', he added. Mr Jezeph had claimed the accident left him in 'constant pain'; unable to bend over to put on his own shoes and socks and incapable of walking more than 400-500 yards without pain, said the judge.

But that account 'did not fit' with the medical evidence or a six-minute video shot without Mr Jezeph's knowledge on April Fools Day this year by a private investigator, he added. He said the video showed Mr Jezeph 'walking briskly in the rain', running accross the road, using public transport and shifting the shopping he was carrying from hand to hand.

He found Mr Jezeph's claim that his mobility was now badly restricted 'rather surprising' in the light of the video. So far as he could see, the video showed no signs of any disability, added the judge. 'I am not satisfied that Mr Jezeph sustained any serious injury at time he said he twisted or pulled his back'. Despite his youth, medical experts agreed that Mr Jezeph did show signs of degenerative changes in his back.

But the judge said he could not be satisfied that this was connected to anything that happened at the cemetery. Dismissing his negligence claims against the council the judge added: 'I am satisfied the local authority acted reasonably and did not expose Mr Jezeph to an unreasonable risk of injury. 'I acquit the council of any breach of the duty of care they owed their employee'. Heavy manual work involving shovelling or digging always involved a risk of back injury and Richmond's policy was no different from a great many other employers.

Statistics showed that thousands of graves throughout the country were dug by hand without mechanical aids each year, he added. The judge rejected Mr Jezeph's claim that the council was negligent in failing to provide a mechanical digger at the Twickenham Cemetery. The council had since provided such a machine at a cost of £26,000, but that was due to competitive tendering and was in no way prompted by fears for workers' safety, said the judge.

Mr Jezeph's case was dismissed and he was ordered to pay the legal costs of the two-day trial. Though he was not legally aided, Mr Jezeph's case was supported by the General and Municipal Boilermakers Union.

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