News

13 years and 13 court hearings and finally JUSTICE for Laura

PRESS RELEASE                              10 August 2016

JUSTICE FOR LAURA AFTER 13 years, 13 court hearings and 7 guilty verdicts

  • Titanic battle of Nottingham Mum v Sunsail and Tui PLC – one of the largest travel companies in the world is over

This week, after 13 years of fighting Sunsail in the Greek and English Courts, 61 year old mother of two, Lynne Morgan of Woodborough Nottingham has finally succeeded in winning her battle with Sunsail  over the death of her daughter Laura who was drowned  in Greece on 31 July 2003  aged 11 years whilst on a Sunsail all inclusive holiday.

Criminal proceedings against employees of Sunsail, which is now owned by TUI Plc ( who also own Thomsons) were commenced in the year after her death and 3 employees were found guilty, in  the Court of Misdemeanours on Levkas, Greece , of her ‘homicide by misadventure’  Four subsequent appeals  ( two in the appeals court in  Patras and two in the Supreme Court in Athens)  resulted in 2 more guilty verdicts and then the final Supreme Court judgement in June 2010 that Sunsail had been ‘derelict in their obligations’ and the employees were guilty of manslaughter by negligence. Sunsail were operating illegally and had contravened the Greek Port Regulations by allowing children under 16 to sail unaccompanied without continuous parental supervision.

Laura died when the catamaran she was on, with two teenage friends, capsized and then completely overturned.  Sunsail staff had allowed the inexperienced girls to take out trapeze harnesses. When the boat overturned Laura was dragged under the boat and, unable to release herself from the harness, drowned before the Sunsail rescue boats were able to free her.

A civil claim was finally heard in the Greek Courts in 2011 with a further guilty verdict that Sunsail was Liable for Laura’s fatal accident. Substantial damages were awarded to the family. But Sunsail continued to Appeal. The Supreme Court finally rejecting their appeal in March 2016.  Sunsail were finally forced , despite delaying tactics, to compensate the family via the British judicial system last week.

Lynne said ‘ throughout this 13 year battle Sunsail have shown complete contempt for Laura, myself and my family. They have not had an ounce of compassion for the loss of my child whilst in their care and have been completely inert and passive hiding behind their lawyers throughout. What does this tell you about their corporate values? ‘

Lynne continues ‘grief is a very powerful emotion and I became more and more determined to fight for the truth to come out and for justice to be served – in a moral as well as judicial sense.’   ‘ Laura’s death should never have happened – Sunsail were operating in a very unprofessional, laissez-faire manner out in Greece. They tried many times to put the blame on me but I was completely exonerated by the Greek Courts. They whisked away the young kids club assistant who happened to be on the beach that day and let the girls take the trapeze harnesses – so the Greek authorities never knew she existed.

Fortunately in the week long inquest which  finally took place in Nottingham in 2012 the truth of what happened that day was completely exposed  though the Coroner also  found that ‘there is a high risk of contamination of evidence’. In her verdict she also found that ‘no suitably qualified professional had advised Laura on the use of a trapeze harness prior to her taking to the water that day .

‘ Sunsail have treated me like a piece of inert flotsam and as they proudly brand themselves as a Cowes Week sponsor I sincerely hope that they are shamed and their inhuman  corporate stance  over Laura’s death  can now be exposed. To add insult to injury they have a new Sailing Base just metres from where Laura was pronounced dead in Lefkas Town’

End

Timelines of the Criminal and Civil proceeding in Greece can be  found on

www.lrmt.co.uk  – Laura Rose Memorial Trust website

Lynne’s lawyer – Demetrius Danas, Partner, Irwin Mitchell , London                                              DDI  0207 421  3985

Lynne can be contacted on  07801 011 320   or lynne@lynnemorgan.net

Or 0115 965 4745           Address  26 Smalls Croft Woodborough, Nottingham



Timeline   for Civil Case    1.8.16            8 years and  6 court appearances.

19 March  2008           Claim issued against Sunsail Ltd in the court of First Instance – Levkas, Greece

9 July 2008                  Claim served on Sunsail

8 April 2011                Case heard in the court of First Instance – Levkas, Greece

12 August 2011            Judgement in our favour

9 September 2011      Judgement published-– the court held Sunsail liable for Laura’s fatal accident and awards the claimants  Euros 240,000.   12.5% has to be paid immediately regardless of appeal procedure. Sunsail immediately appeal the decision

18 October 2012         Sunsail attempt an out of court settlement with a ‘bordering on the unethical’ direct approach to the family. Meeting refused

9 April 2013                Hearing of the Appeal Court, Western Mainland, Greece

25 June 2013               Appellate Court  rejects Sunsail’s appeal  but they refuse to pay any of the compensation and apply for a stay of execution of the judgement and  a further appeal to the            Supreme Court

12 May 2014               Supreme Court  hears Sunsail’s application for Stay of Execution of the judgement.

16 May 2014                Court decides to suspend one half of the amount awarded pending the Supreme Court  Hearing. So judgement enforceable on the other half.  Sunsail still refuse to pay the half that has not been suspended.

4 November 2014        The family’s lawyers, Irwin Mitchell send a letter before action to Sunsail threatening them with  a winding up order  in the UK Courts.

12 November 2014     Their lawyers, ASB Law confirm that Sunsail  will pay the amounts owed – and 51 days later they do pay  ( 6.1.15).

23 March 2015           Supreme Court Hearing in Athens – Sunsail get the hearing postponed because their lawyers could not be present.  Delayed 8 months.

23 November 2015     Supreme Court Hearing went ahead. Four months wait and then

30 March 2016           Supreme Court REJECT Sunsail’s appeal and orders them to pay costs– this is the END of the legal process in Greece but still no sign of payment of the compensation.

26 July 2016                Irwin Mitchell issue a further letter before action to Sunsail giving them 3 days to pay their debts.


 Criminal Trials  Timeline –  7 Trials over 7 years

31.7. 03           Laura pronounced dead in  Lefkada Town Hospital, Greece

  1. 12. 04 Court of Misdemeanours in Lefkada – 5 Sunsail employees charged with Laura’s manslaughter through negligence.  Notts police find out be chance. Lynne gets hearing adjourned due to insufficient notice of the hearing.

11.10.05   Court of Misdemeanours, Lefkada –  Lynne goes out to Greece for trial

Which is adjourned after 30 mins  because one of the defendants does not have any legal representation.

  1. 3. 06 Court of Misdemeanours, Lefkada – Lynne has to fly to Athens and drive across Greece to Lefkada to be a witness

3 defendants found guilty and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment

Suspended for 3 years .  Defendants appeal

20 +23.4.07  Court of Appeal , Patras –  complete re-hearing of case. Convictions

Of 2 Employees upheld with sentences reduced to 15 months

Suspended for 3 years. I defendant rebecca morgan found not guilty

Immediate Appeal to Supreme Court, Athens  – points of law only.

11.4. 08   Hearing  at  Supreme Court ( Areios Pagos) , Athens.

Supreme Court judges order a re-trial on a legal technicality.

– that the Post mortem report into Laura’s death was not cited as a document in the Appeal Judge’s summing up.

2 .12.08   Back to  Court of Appeal, Patras – complete re-hearing of case.

Convictions of the  2  Sunsail employees upheld for a 3rd time.

Further appeal to Supreme Court

12.2.10  2nd Hearing of Supreme Court, Athens.

30.6. 10    Notification that the Supreme Court has REJECTED the defendants’ appeal

So the GUILTY verdicts   ‘ homicide by misadventure’ stand against

Will Hutton Manager of  Sunsail’s Vounaki Beach Hotel

Kevin Jones – Sunsail’s  Beach Safety and Training Manager

9.12.10   Copy of the Areios Pagos Judgement received by email and translated by

Notts Police.

16-20.1.12 The inquest into Laura’s death is resumed and concluded by the Nottingham Coroner . She gave a narrative verdict commenting that ‘no suitably qualified professional had advised Laura on the use of a trapeze harness prior to her taking to the water that day.

 

Sunsail is now part of  TUI Travel PLC – an international leisure travel company formed by the merger of First Choice  Holidays PLC and the tourism division of TUI  AG in 2007


Wed 31st July 2013  marks  the 10th anniversary of Laura’s  untimely death. Laura lives on in our hearts and souls.  On August 3rd family and friends will gather at the family home  to love and remember her…

Without You

Love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation
The love we give away is the only love we keep

Some think it’s holding on that makes one strong , but sometimes it’s letting go
Life can only be understood backward but it must be lived forward


Sunsail’s appeal against their conviction goes ahead

The appeal by Sunsail, against their guilty verdict in the Civil Court in Greece went ahead as scheduled on  9 April 2013.
The outcome of this appeal may not be known for some months. ( still no news at 29 july 2013)
The  original case was heard on 8 April 2011 with  a guilty judgement published 5 months later. The family have been awarded substantial compensation.


Fundraising

On Saturday 24th November  2012 we organised a Celebration Ceilidh to commemorate  what would have been Laura’s 21st Birthday. The venue was Lowdham Village Hall. and tickets priced £15 included  a ploughman’s supper. See the Fundraising Page .  A cheque for £1k was subseequently dontated to the NSPCC

In conjunction with Chris and Lou Read we have organised an annual T20 Pr0:Am charity cricket match at Car Colston Cricket Club on the beautiful village green of Car Colston, Notts. See the Fundraising page

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The end of the Greek Trials                    Press Release 12                                 Monday 26 July 2010

Drowning tragedy: Mum’s seven-year court ordeal ends at last 

The last chapter has been written in a Nottinghamshire mother’s battle for justice – almost seven years to the day since her daughter drowned in a sailing tragedy inGreece.

Lynne Morgan, from Woodborough, has just heard from her Greek lawyers that the Supreme Court in Athens has rejected a final appeal by two employees of the UK-based company, Sunsail – resort manager William Hutton and beach manager Kevin Jones — against their convictions for causing death through negligence, for which they received 10-month prison sentences, suspended for three years.

Eleven-year-old Laura Morgan, drowned off Paleros,Greece, on July 31, 2003, when the trapeze harness she was allowed to wear could not be released and she was trapped beneath an overturned catamaran.  She was on holiday with her mother and elder sister, Sarah, at Club Vounaki, Sunsail’s flagship Greek resort .

Since then, there have been seven court hearings, covering an initial criminal trial, an Appeal, an Appeal retrial and two Supreme Court hearings.

Along the way there have been four guilty verdicts pronounced.

During her seven-year ordeal, Lynne has made four emotional returns to Greeceto give evidence as a witness.

She has also faced an agonising five-month wait since February for the outcome of the second Supreme Court hearing – based on legal points – to be announced.

Lynne says: “This has been an enormously difficult emotional journey for me, and news of the appeal rejection comes at a particularly poignant time for me, with the anniversary of Laura’s death so imminent.

“But I was determined to see this through and attempt to get justice for Laura’s sake.

” Laura will always be with me every moment of every day, but, at last, the criminal court case is over and that brings an element of closure.  I hope that  the Nottingham coroner will now be able to complete the inquest and record a verdict.”

Lynne adds: “Sorrow is a lasting legacy, but so is the knowledge that Laura would want me to be positive and use this tragedy as a spur to help other young people.”

Lynne and Laura’s father, Graham, who were divorced shortly before the tragedy, have established the Laura Rose Memorial Trust (www.lrmt.co.uk), to help meet children’s education needs.

And, since last November, Lynne has been chairwoman of YMCA Nottingham, ( now the y-notts.org.uk) which makes grants to local people aged under 30 to further their personal development and education.

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Fight for justice for Laura now in 7th year with 7th trial looming         PR 11             11 February 2010

 The mother of a Notts girl killed in a sailing accident in Greece nearly seven years ago is facing a seventh  ordeal this week as the two employees of the UK-based company, Sunsail, who failed a year ago in their appeal to overturn their convictions, now take a further appeal to the Supreme Court in Athens on Friday 12 Feb

After a 2nd Appeal Trial in Patras in  Dec 08 in which the 2 defendants were found guilty of manslaughter through negligence,  for the 3rd time ,  they have now submitted a second  appeal to the Supreme Court which will be heard this Friday inAthens

Eleven-year-old Laura Morgan, from Woodborough, drowned off Paleros,Greece, on July 31, 2003, when the sailing harness she was wearing could not be released and she was trapped under an overturned catamaran.

In 2006, William Hutton, the resort manager, and Kevin Jones, the beach manager at Club Vounaki – a flagship Sunsail resort – were found guilty of causing Laura’s death through negligence.   The convictions were upheld by the appeal Court in Patras in April 2007 .   They were sentenced to 15 months in prison, suspended provided they successfully complete three years’ probation.

The Supreme Court of Greece, the Areios Pagos, is a court of cassation.   It reviews previous rulings made by lower courts, examining legal and not factual issues.  Its decision is irrevocable.

Lynne Morgan, Laura’s mother, has already made four emotional visits to Greece for court hearings, but will not be present at this hearing.

She explains: “I cannot play any part in the proceedings.   It will be a battle of the lawyers – the prosecutor and the parties’ lawyers pleading their respective cases in relatively brief oral statements to the court.   However, I have signed a Power of Attorney to enable my Greek lawyer to represent me at the hearing as counsel for myself as a civil claimant.”

Back in Nottingham, the inquest into Laura’s death is still adjourned, pending the outcome of the Supreme Court hearing.

Lynne’s lawyers have also issued a civil claim against Sunsail, which is ongoing.

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 Sunsail  managers lose appeal over sailing death  in  Greece                   PR 8          27 April 2007

Statement from Lynne Morgan, mother of 11 year old Laura Morgan who was drowned on July 31 2003 after being trapped in a trapeze harness underneath a capsized  catamaran during a Sunsail watersports holiday

‘I have now returned from Patras,Greece after having given evidence at the appeal of three Sunsail employees  who were found guilty of negligence last year by three judges inLefkada,Greece,  and given suspended prison sentences.  William Hutton  the Clubhotel Manager and Kevin Jones, the Beach Manager had their  guilty convictions upheld. Their suspended prison sentences were reduced from 18 to 15 months.

Rebecca Morgan, the  Watersports Manager was found not guilty. On the afternoon of the incident, Rebecca was not on duty and had handed over her beach and watersports management responsibilities to Kevin Jones.

RYA Training Manager James Stevens has commented that ‘in repealing Rebecca Morgan’s sentence the Greek Courthas recognised that the Sunsail Club was following stringent safety requirements’.  This is absolutely not the case as evidenced by the two guilty verdicts given to Will Hutton and Kevin Jones.

Although we have to wait for the written judgement of the three judges to see the detail of the convictions, the two guilty verdicts of causing death through negligence demonstrate that, for the second time, three further Greek judges in the Court of Appeal were far from satisfied with the procedures at Club Vounaki and the events surrounding Laura’s death.

The facts are that :

a) Laura was allowed to take out a trapeze harness on a catamaran without parental permission.( She had been on a catamaran for the first time for one hour the previous day).

b) there was no masthead float on the hobie cat which would have prevented total inversion and would have prevented Laura being dragged underneath the water.

c) there were no knives or masks on any of the safety boats patrolling the sailing area.

d) it was over two minutes before a second rescue boat  arrived and still no  attempt was made to right the boat

Within weeks Sunsail had put masthead floats on the catamarans  at Vounaki and introduced new Parental Consent Forms for confirming children’s sailing abilities. The RYA has also revised its recommendations and safety boats must now carry a knife and should right an inverted boat immediately rather than try to disentangle a trapped person.

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Sunsail staff found guilty         by Practical Boat Owner                                   22.3.06

http://www.ibinews.com/ibinews/newsdesk/20060222122033ibinews.html

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 Trio Guilty after Girl’s Drowning                                                                           21.3.06

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/nottinghamshire/4829102.stm

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Nottinghamshire mother flies out a second time for death trial                   PR4

The Nottinghamshire mother of an 11-year-old girl, drowned after being trapped in a harness underneath a capsized catamaran two-and-a-half years’ ago, is returning to Greece on March 18 to give evidence at the trial of five people on charges relating to her daughter’s death.

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Sunsail employees charged with manslaughter

News from Practical Boat Owner – download PDF here Actual article story here (colour)

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Nottinghamshire mother flies out for death trial.                           PR3

The Nottinghamshire mother of an 11-year-old girl, drowned after being trapped in a harness underneath a capsized catamaran two years’ ago, is returning to Greece on September 18 to attend the trial of three men and a woman on charges related to her daughter’s death.

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Garden where laura will be remembered                                       PR2

An eleven-year-old girl who died in a holiday drowning tragedy two years ago will be commemorated on September 14 when a seat is dedicated to her name in a new wildlife garden at Nottingham Girls High School, where she was a pupil.

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Hocky trophy in memory of Laura                                                 PR1

An eleven-year-old girl’s love of hockey will be commemorated on Friday (March 18) when a new trophy is presented at the final assembly of the term at Nottingham High School for Girls.

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BBC NEWS – Monday 4th August 2003 – Family Mourns drowning victim

BBC NEWS – Tuesday 13th September 2005 – School will honour drowned pupil

BBC News – Tuesday 20th September 2005 – Trial delay over girl’s drowning