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Couple jailed after private prosecution by travel agent

October 23, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

A middle-aged couple who told their travel agent that they and their children had been laid low by a gastric ailment on holiday – while boasting on social media of the great time they were having – have been jailed for fraud.

Deborah Briton, 53, and partner Paul Roberts, 43, attempted to claim compensation by stating they and their two children had fallen ill on trips to the Spanish holiday island of Majorca in 2015 and 2016, Liverpool Crown Court in northwest England heard.

The couple’s social media told an entirely different story, saying how they had enjoyed a fantastic holiday.

The court heard that the pair tried to claim nearly GBP 20,000 through the bogus stomach bug story and their action would have cost holiday firm Thomas Cook another GBP 28,000 in legal expenses, had they succeeded.

The British Government and travel agent group ABTA are both trying to stop a spate of fake claims for illness, which is costing Spanish hoteliers a fortune and tarnishing the reputation of British travellers overseas. Thomas Cook has decided to bring private prosecutions and this case is the first of them.

Judge David Aubrey QC spoke of an “explosion” in gastric illness claims made by British holidaymakers.

He said: “Those who may be tempted in the future to make a dishonest claim in relation to fake holiday sickness, if they are investigated and brought to justice, whatever the circumstances of an individual, he or she must expect to receive an immediate custodial sentence.”

Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported that defendant Briton sobbed as she was sentenced to nine months jail after admitting four counts of fraud. Roberts, who was sentenced to 15 months in prison, “cried and shook in the court throughout the hearing” the paper reported. His solicitor described him as a broken man. It was his first conviction.

Sentencing, Judge Aubrey told the couple their claims had been a “complete and utter sham” which were “bogus from start to finish” and must have required planning and premeditation. The court heard the idea had been dreamed up in a pub.

An epidemic of phoney food poisoning has been raging among British holidaymakers for the past couple of years, with unscrupulous travellers claiming to have suffered gastric attacks after eating food at hotels and resorts – in a bid to claim compensation, refunds or free holidays.

In May, a tour operator released undercover footage filmed by private investigators which showed a rogue operator in a Spanish holiday resort coaching tourists to make bogus compensation claims for up to AUD 5000, London’s Daily Mail reported.

ABTA reported an astounding 434% increase in the number of gastric illness claims made by Britons since 2013, despite the sickness levels reported in resorts remaining stable.

In June, Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) updated its travel advice for Spain.

There have been reports of an increase in holidaymakers being encouraged to submit a claim for personal injury if they have experienced gastric illness during their stay… You should only consider pursuing a complaint or claim if you have genuinely suffered from injury or illness. If you make a false or fraudulent claim, you may face legal proceedings in the UK or Spain.

That is now happening.

Written by Peter Needham

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