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Can I Recover Compensation if I Am Sexually Assaulted on Holiday?

Sexual assault can happen to men and women of all ages and backgrounds, and it is not uncommon for an assault to happen whilst visiting another country.

It can be a very traumatic experience, which can be made more difficult to deal with when it happens abroad. Not only that, but should you choose to start legal proceedings against the attacked, the complexities inherent in such cases can add to that strain, which is why it is important to be aware of the issues surrounding such cases and what you may face.

In April 2018, the Court of Appeal tackled this difficult topic in the case X v Kuoni Travel Limited. Mrs X was on an all-inclusive holiday in Sri Lanka with her husband. One evening, a uniformed member of staff, who she believed to be a security guard, offered to show her a shortcut across the hotel. When she accompanied him, he took her to an engineering room on the grounds where he assaulted and raped her. It later turned out that he was an electrician employed by the hotel and not a security guard.

Mrs X brought a civil claim against Kuoni Travel Limited, accusing Kuoni of breaching the contract she had with the company, as well as breaching regulation 15 of the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992.

The contract held between Mrs X and Kuoni held them responsible for the following:

  • Any fault, including that of their agents or suppliers
  • Any of the holiday arrangements not being of a reasonable standard
  • If there was an injury caused as a result of an activity forming part of the holiday arrangements

Mrs X argued that her attacker was providing a service that was part of the holiday contract - i.e. showing her the way around the hotel - but the original trial judge did not agree, and neither did the majority decision in the Court of Appeal.

The court looked at the following:

  • Whether the definition of holiday arrangements included an employee acting outside the functions they were employed to perform.
  • Whether the employee was defined as a ‘supplier’ for the purposes of the package holiday regulation.
  • Whether the hotel would be vicariously liable for the actions of the employee.

To determine the last point, the court looked at English case law surrounding situations where employers are held responsible for the actions of their employees - known in legal terms as vicarious liability - and whether there was a close connection between the assailant’s duties and the attack.

Lord Justice Longmore dissented and considered the actions of the employee should form part of the package during a 4-star all-inclusive break. However, Mrs X was unsuccessful and is left without compensation for the sexual assault carried out.

This example highlights that each case of sexual assault abroad needs to be looked at very carefully and on its own facts to determine if a legal remedy can be found and the victim is able to use that as a way of finding closure for a traumatic experience.

What can you do if you have been victim of a sexual assault overseas?

Contact the British embassy or consulate for immediate support and advice.
Report the attack to the local police - we realise this may not be an easy decision and the consulate may be able to support you by offering to accompany you or act as an interpreter.
Contact your travel insurer, who may be able to help you to access medical attention and legal advice while overseas.
When you’re back home, there are various support networks you can access - you can get guidance from your local GP, or at the NHS Choices website if you would prefer to take this step without consulting your GP.

For more information on rapes and assaults abroad, take a look at the FCO’s guide here.

If you have been sexually assaulted while on holiday, our team are here to help, get in touch with us today by calling 0800 054 6570 or fill in our online enquiry form and we will contact you.

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