First family to be charged over ‘fake’ holiday bug claimed £52,000 from Thomas Cook over ‘sickness’ in Majorca

A family has been accused of lying about being ill on holiday to extort £52,000 from Thomas Cook in what is set to be a landmark court case.

Accused: Paul Roberts and Deborah Briton, centre, leave court with her daughter Charlene

Deborah Briton, 53, and her partner Paul Roberts, 43, submitted bogus compensation claims for themselves and their two children for two all-inclusive holidays in Majorca, a preliminary hearing was told.

Another daughter of Mrs Briton, Charlene Briton, 30, submitted a further false claim for herself and her young daughter for one of the holidays last year, the court heard.

The trio appeared at Liverpool magistrates’ court last week and pleaded not guilty to six counts of fraud. If found guilty, they could face between 18 months and six years in prison.

It is thought to be the first time someone has appeared in a criminal court in the UK accused of making a fake compensation claim for holiday sickness.

Prosecutor Sam Brown said that in total the fraud amounted to £52,000. The claims, submitted by David Norman Solicitors, were for food poisoning.

Charlene Briton was accompanied to court by her daughter.

District judge Andrew Shaw told the defendants, from Liverpool, that he will send the case to crown court for trial and that the allegations represented a ‘sophisticated fraud with relatively high value of money claimed’.

The judge adjourned the case until a pre-trial hearing on August 10 and the defendants were given unconditional bail. Last week, Thomas Cook successfully defended a civil claim for £10,000 compensation from Julie Lavelle and her partner Michael McIntyre after a court found them to be ‘fundamentally dishonest’.

Roberts and Deborah Briton pictured on holiday together in Spain

The Mail on Sunday has highlighted the rise in compensation claims made by people who say they fell ill on holiday. Some travel operators have seen a 400 per cent increase in claims in the past year.

The average payout is about £2,000, but in many cases the only evidence required is a receipt from a pharmacist. The cases are being fuelled by claims management companies which have moved into the travel market after rules were tightened to curb whiplash claims from car accidents.

Last month, travel industry body ABTA said the rise in sickness claims was costing the Spanish hotel industry alone more than £50 million a year in payouts and legal fees. Experts warn that the practice will ultimately force up the cost of package holidays.

Theresa May has told the MoS she plans to cap the legal costs that can be paid to claims firms.