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A leading travel claims lawyer has described a claim brought against Tui on behalf of relatives of victims of the terrorist attack in Tunisia last year as “despicable”.

Thirty UK holidaymakers died in the attack in Sousse in June 2015.

Law firm Irwin Mitchell commenced legal action against Thomson (Tui) on behalf of families of 16 of the victims as well as “a number of those seriously injured” last September.

But barrister Sarah Prager, a specialist in travel law and personal injury claims, told an Abta travel law seminar in London: “Bringing a class action against a tour operator that responded magnificently to these attacks is despicable.”

Prager, who acts for both claimants and defendants in personal injury claims, said: “I draw the line at the Tunisia beach massacre.

“Because of the case, tour operators stand in peril of being held liable for something over which they have no control and for which they have no insurance.

“It threatens a public relations disaster. It threatens to put people off going on holiday.”

Prager argued: “The English courts have always said there are things you cannot be held responsible for, such as acts of terrorism. That is one of the reasons insurers don’t respond to terrorist threats.

“As the law currently stands there should be no prospect of the claim being successful. All the case law is against it, and the law provides a defence against it.”

But she warned: “We are on the threshold of the English courts considering whether defendants can be responsible for the actions of unrelated third parties.

“English Courts are thinking much more about risk allocation and taking a much more Continental approach”.

She said the case “will be a test of how much is changing”, adding: “There is a danger the terrorist claims could be successful, although I don’t think they will succeed.”

Neil Kavanagh, head of the terrorism response team in the Foreign Office (FCO) counter terrorism department, told the seminar: “The threat is changing. We’ve seen a number of deaths from terrorism overseas [and] we see terror groups looking to inspire people to take up terrorism.

“There is more of an intention to aim for widespread disruption [and] a diversification of the threat.”

The inquest into the deaths in Tunisia is scheduled for January next year.

Irwin Mitchell has argued it launched the claim over the Sousse attack “in the light of the known level of risk in the region at the time”.