Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith ruled this afternoon that the thirty Britons shot dead in Sousse, Tunisia, in 2015 were ‘unlawfully killed’. The verdict, delivered after a six-week hearing, rejected the argument by the victim’s families that neglect by the tour operator played a part.
Judge Loraine-Smith found that TUI, the company that owns Thomson, had not informed customers where to find advice in the wake of a prior attack on the Bardo National Museum in Tunis, and stated that customers believed they had been reassured by TUI in the wake of this attack that it was safe to travel to Tunisia. The company disputed that reassurances were given and the evidence of a Thomson travel agent was that she would not say that somewhere was completely safe.
Giving his verdict, Judge Loraine-Smith stated that he could not find that neglect by the tour operator or the hotel owners was a factor in the deaths. He stated that the law regarding neglect only applied in cases where someone had a duty of care towards someone because of their youth, age, illness or incarceration, but not to tourists who voluntarily agreed to go on holiday abroad. He stated the law in this area ‘very substantially limits the circumstances in which neglect can feature in the conclusions’. A finding of neglect requires a gross failure to provide the basics of life to someone in a ‘dependent’ position. The judge found that the victims were not ‘dependent’ on the travel company or hotel. He agreed with the submissions advanced on behalf of TUI, that for the holidaymakers to be held ‘dependent’ would be a ‘quantum leap’ in the law.
Importantly for the Tunisian government and police force, the judge went on to find that there was not a direct or causal link between the response of armed offices in the area and the deaths. There had been marked criticism that the police had been slow to respond and when they did respond they took insufficient steps to secure the hotel. The judge found that the only factor that might have made a difference was if the hotel guards had been armed. Judge Loraine-Smith stated, however, that ‘having reviewed the legal advice on gun law in Tunisia, it’s clear that this was not a realistic option.’ Nevertheless, he did criticise the response of local law enforcement, describing it as at ‘best shambolic, at worst cowardly’. He found that, with the exception of two marine guards, no police entered the premises until all 38 tourists were killed.
It is understood that the families of those killed plan to start an action for personal injury and death against the tour operator.
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© Chambers of Lawrence Power