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Fraudsters convicted after fabricating false sickness claims


26th February 2021 • Posted in Announcements

Four fake sickness fraudsters from Middlesbrough 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 us.

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 26th February 2021 after admitting to submitting false gastric illness claims which could have resulted in them getting a pay-out of tens of thousands of pounds, including solicitor costs. Christopher, Barbara and Anthony Byng all received immediate custodial sentences, with Linda Lane receiving a suspended sentence.

The four claimed that 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, which we defended. During subsequent investigations, with the support of law firm Horwich Farrelly, evidence was discovered which showed the claims were all fabricated.

This evidence included a number of social media posts from the family, including images and video footage of them enjoying themselves on holiday despite claiming to be ill. This included the family using the waterslide, swimming in the pool and drinking in the bar. No mention or sign of any illness was made, despite the severe symptoms they claimed to have been suffering at the time.

In addition to this, we sent a survey to the family on their return from holiday that Christopher Byng completed. When asked how satisfied he was with the holiday he stated he was, “Very satisfied,” with the choice, cleanliness and quality of meals the hotel offered, despite the allegations he subsequently made.

He was also specifically asked whether anyone had been unwell on the holiday, but he chose not to answer this. However, answering the question ‘Thinking about the future, how likely are you to book with Jet2holidays again in the next 12 months?’ he responded ‘Very likely’. This was despite the allegation that his “holiday was ruined as a result of the illness.”

All four pleaded guilty at the Teesside Combined Court.

When handing down his Judgment, His Honour Judge Mark Gargan commented that “false claims for holiday sickness are all too prevalent.” He also stated that these claims were “not merely a case of exaggeration” and were a “complete invention”.

Steve Heapy, CEO 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, a Partner at Horwich Farrelly, the law firm that investigated the claims on behalf of Jet2holidays said “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”.

In some quarters Britain was referred to as the ‘fake sick man of Europe’ after unscrupulous businesses and touts were able to exploit a legal loophole and encourage a huge rise in fake sickness claims. This led to a 500% increase in gastric sickness claims made by British holidaymakers between 2013 and 2016, prompting some hoteliers to warn that they would withdraw holidays from the UK market.

We led the campaign to stamp this out and 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.

We have defended a number of false claims, and have taken successful action against those found to have been conspiring to issue fraudulent claims.

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