Four fake sickness fraudsters from Liverpool have been sentenced to three months in prison, suspended for two years, and fined £750 each after admitting to concocting a fake claim for gastric illness to win compensation. They have also been ordered to pay legal costs incurred by Jet2holidays.
Michael Jameson (43), Claire Weir (35) Jane Weir (38) Janet Weir (63), all from Liverpool, were convicted of contempt of court at Liverpool High Court after inventing and submitting a false claim against Jet2holidays for gastric illness, which could have resulted in a pay out to them of more than £45,000, inclusive of their solicitors costs.
They made the claim for compensation after stating that they, and the four children that they were travelling with, had all suffered for days with nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhoea and vomiting, as a result of food poisoning contracted whilst on an All-Inclusive week-long holiday at the Aqua Magic Rock Gardens in Benidorm in July 2015.
They claim this was caused by negligence, and that the symptoms resulted in a loss of enjoyment on their holiday.
However, when investigating the claim, Jet2holidays and law firm Horwich Farrelly discovered evidence showing that the claims were a complete fabrication. This evidence includes:
- Social media posts saying ‘Had the best holiday ever’, ‘lovely hotel, food’ and ‘didn’t want to come back home’
- A conversation between two of the claimants about the holiday on social media saying ‘Loved every minute of it’ and ‘Wish I was there now Mum’
- According to medical reports that accompanied the claim, the claimants were still suffering from diarrhoea, stomach pain and cramps when these posts were uploaded
- A series of social media posts and images relating to Michael Jameson enjoying a day out at a cricket club. Again, according to medical reports, Mr Jameson was still suffering from nausea, diarrhoea, stomach pain and cramps at the time
- Records held by the hotel showing consumption of lager, vodka, gin, amaretto and liquor during the time the claimants were allegedly ill
Although the four defendants blamed the advice of their previous solicitors, an accusation disputed by the firms involved, all four pleaded guilty at Liverpool High Court where Justice Choudhury referred to a huge increase in holiday sickness claims in recent years, and stated during sentencing that crimes like this are “not victimless as some might think”. Justice Choudhury also commented that the evidence against them was “little short of overwhelming.”
Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays said: “We have led the way to tackle the issue of false sickness claims so that holidaymakers do not expose themselves to the risks that come with getting involved in such dishonest activity. For some time we have warned that making false claims could lead to serious consequences, and this ruling shows how serious they can be. It should leave anyone making a fake sickness claim in no doubt – we will robustly investigate and defend any claims that are dishonest or illegitimate – and the courts will not hesitate to punish anyone engaging in such fraud.”
David Scott, a fraud partner at Horwich Farrelly, the law firm that investigated the claims on behalf of Jet2holidays, said: “There has been a reported 500% increase in holiday sickness claims since 2013 and we believe that only a very small number of them are genuine. Horwich Farrelly have successfully defended almost 3,000 holiday sickness claims in barely two years and many share the same evidence that we saw in this case. We are pleased that this family accepted that their claims were fraudulent. They saw this as a way of making some easy money at the expense of honest holiday makers and they will now pay the price for this stupidity.”
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 over recent years. 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.
Jet2holidays led the campaign to stamp this out and in April this year, 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.
The Government also followed this up by clamping down on the practice of cold calling without consent, and further proposals are being put forward by the Financial Conduct Authority when they take over regulation of Claims Management Companies (CMCs) from April 2019 to ensure there is an end to misleading practices and dishonest activity.