Four people have been sentenced to four months in prison after conspiring to issue fraudulent compensation claims for gastric illness against Jet2holidays.
They have also been ordered to pay legal costs incurred by the UK’s second largest tour operator.
Christopher Byng, 38, Barbara Byng, 64, Linda Lane, 36 and Anthony Byng, 66, all from Middlesbrough, were convicted of contempt of court at Teesside Combined Court on Friday, February 26 after pleading guilty.
They had admitted submitting false gastric illness claims which could have resulted in them getting a pay-out of tens of thousands of pounds, including solicitor costs. The Byngs all received immediate custodial sentences while Linda Lane received a suspended sentence.
The four claimed they, and the two children they were travelling with, had all suffered with various symptoms, including stomach cramps, sickness, diarrhoea, headaches and hot and cold sweats, as a result of food poisoning on an all-inclusive holiday at the Paradise Lago Taurito & Waterpark, Gran Canaria in November 2016.
They then issued court proceedings, defended by Jet2holidays. During investigations, Jet2holidays and their law firm, Horwich Farrelly, discovered social media posts which showed the claims were all fabricated.
Posts features images and video footage of them enjoying their holiday despite claiming to be ill, including using a waterslide, swimming in a pool and drinking in the bar – with no mention of, or sign of illness despite the “severe symptoms” they claimed to have been suffering at the time.
Christopher Byng had completed a survey after the holiday, but before making the claims, saying he was “very satisfied” with the choice, cleanliness and quality of meals the hotel offered, and did not answer the section asking if anyone had been unwell.
Judge Mark Gargan said: “False claims for holiday sickness are all too prevalent.”
Steve Heapy, chief executive of Jet2holidays, said: “We have led the way when it comes to tackling the issue of fake sickness claims, and we continue to do so.
“Issuing a false claim for compensation is fraud, plain and simple, and we have been at pains to warn people that there are serious consequences if they choose to do so. Today’s ruling is the latest illustration of that, and it sends out a very stark message. We will not hesitate to take action against fraudsters, and the courts will not hesitate to punish them.”
David Scott, partner at law firm Horwich Farrelly, added: “Despite successfully defending thousands of fraudulent holiday sickness claims, they remain an issue for travel companies. We welcome the judge’s verdict, which sends out a strong message that if you are caught presenting a dishonest claim, there are severe consequences. Fraud, no matter the value, will simply not be tolerated by the Courts”.
Claims of gastric illness among holidaymakers spiked by 500% between 2013 and 2016, prompting hoteliers to warn they would withdraw rooms from the UK market. This was largely driven by unscrupulous claims firms exploiting a legal loophole to encourage holidaymakers to make false claims.
Travel Weekly, in partnership with Abta and tour operators including Jet2holidays, launched the Fight Fake Claims campaign in response.
In April 2018, the Ministry of Justice announced the extension of Fixed Recoverable Costs to cover holiday sickness claims brought under the Package Travel Regulations, making defence costs predictable and thus deterring bogus claims.
Jet2holidays has defended a series of claims and has taken successful legal action against those found to have been conspiring to issue fraudulent claims.
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