A British couple were jailed Friday for making fake holiday sickness claims in a case that authorities hope will bring end the “explosion” of fake food poisoning cases. Deborah Briton, 53, and partner Paul Roberts, 43, claimed they and their two children had fallen ill during holidays to Spain’s Majorca in 2015 and 2016.
Judge David Aubrey at Liverpool Crown Court ruled that the claims were a “complete and utter sham” as he sentenced Briton to nine months in jail, and Roberts to 15 months. “You were both asserting on your behalf and on behalf of your two children that on two separate holidays you had suffered illness. They were totally and utterly fake,” said the judge.
The couple, who tried to tried to claim nearly £20,000 ($26,600, 22,500 euros) in compensation, admitted four counts of fraud in the private prosecution brought by holiday firm Thomas Cook. Judge Aubrey said he hoped the ruling would bring to an end the “explosion” in similar cases.
“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,” he said.
A Thomas Cook spokesperson said the ruling “demonstrates how serious the issue of fraudulent illness claims has become. “We had to take a stand to protect our holidays and our customers from the minority who cheat the system.
“We hope it sends a clear message to holidaymakers across the UK that the consequences for lying about their experience abroad could be very serious.” Britain’s Ministry of Justice earlier this month launched a “Call for Evidence” on holiday sickness claims, which it said had risen seven-fold in three years.
Tour operators traditionally settled such claims out of court to avoid becoming embroiled in foreign legal systems, where legal costs can escalate.