Corfu trial: Industry rounds on ‘uneven’ EU safety laws

Minimum health and safety standards in European hotels must be brought in to ensure there is no repeat of the mistakes that led to the deaths of two children while on holiday in Corfu. 

The trade has welcomed the not-guilty verdicts delivered on Thomas Cook reps Richard Carson, 28, and Nicola Gibson, 26, who faced manslaughter charges over the deaths of seven-year-old Christianne Shepherd and her brother Robert, 6.

But the case has prompted renewed calls for EU regulations to be standardised after the case exposed serious failings at the Louis Corcyra Beach Hotel, where the tragedy happened in October 2006.

Hugh Morgan, Cosmos overseas purchasing and operations director, said: “It is a very sad loss for the family and my sympathies go back to them. But common sense has prevailed. From day one I always thought it was absurd to hold two reps responsible.

“In the UK we have all worked very hard to conform to the European Package Travel Directive and this makes you wonder who is enforcing regulations overseas. People have to be confident that when they go on holiday they will be safe.”

Abta welcomed the court’s decision, which it said correctly placed responsibility for health and safety with local legislators and property providers, not firms that book hotel rooms.

And it said it would be renewing demands for a new directive to ensure the “uneven application of safety standards across Europe cannot be allowed to continue”.

Mark Tanzer, Abta chief executive, said: “Although we are pleased that the Greek court has made, in our view, the only sensible and reasonable judgment possible, we are now renewing our call on the European Union to take action to prevent similar tragedies.”

Abta highlighted new European fire safety recommendations agreed in 1986, but which have not been updated, and cannot be legally enforced.

In November 2009 Abta, the Federation of Tour Operators, Thomas Cook and Tui led a delegation that met with senior European officials after a study found an inconsistent approach to health and safety across Europe.


The verdict

Four of nine Greek defendants were found guilty of manslaughter by negligence and of causing grievous bodily harm by negligence.

Hotel manager Georgios Chrysikopoulos, head of the hotel technical department Petros Stoyiannos and hotel electrician Christos Louvros were each sentenced to seven years in jail. Civil engineer Dimitrios Xidias was given two years on probation for breaching building regulations.

The lead judge in the trial, Panagiotis Molyvdas, said the two Thomas Cook representatives were misinformed by the hotel manager and were not responsible for “bringing about the lethal outcome”’.

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