A tourist who was raped by a hotel worker at a glamorous resort in Sri Lanka 11 years ago has finally won her quest for justice after the tour operator was held liable.
The woman, now aged in her 40s, was on holiday with her husband in July 2010 at the Club Bentota Hotel on Paradise Island for a 15-night all inclusive holiday.
The couple booked the holiday through package tour operator Kuoni.
In the early hours of July 17 the woman, from Glasgow, was walking through the grounds of the resort.
An electrician wearing maintenance worker uniform offered to show her a shortcut to reception - but lured her into an engineering room where he raped and attacked her.
She suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder in the aftermath of the horror assault.
The victim's legal team argued package tour operator Kuoni was liable as the man was guiding her within the resort as part of the service provided under the package holiday contract.
The Supreme Court - the highest court in the UK - has now ruled Kuoni is liable to pay her compensation under the terms of the contract that the woman entered into when she booked the holiday.
It ruled the obligations of tour operators are not just services such as accommodation, meals and transport but also a duty to ensure safety and customers should be able to enjoy a holiday to a “reasonable standard.”
But despite the victory the woman told how she felt she had been "put on trial" as Kuoni's defence team trawled her social media accounts and counselling notes to build a case against her.
She said she believes victims of sexual assault are routinely subjected to character assassinations, and her mental health was repeatedly questioned.
The woman said: "Today's decision is a huge relief for me and my family, and we are hugely grateful to our legal team for supporting us over the past 11 years.
“This case was always about trying to force Kuoni to take account of its failings to protect and support me both before and after the incident.
“Unfortunately, rather than take note and review its approach to my experience, Kuoni decided to double down and effectively put me on trial in an open court.
“In a case that was supposed to focus on the legal interpretation of liability, I instead had the defence trawl through my Facebook and social media records, excerpts from my deeply personal counselling sessions with a cognitive behavioural therapy specialist were read out in court and my overall mental health was repeatedly called into question.
"This was all while I was actively suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Like so many victims of sexual assault, it was easier to attack me and my character than for Kuoni to really consider the case in hand and its own processes and procedures.
“I only hope that by seeing this through to the end not only will Kuoni finally take action to review its approaches on customer health, safety and support - but that other women and victims of sexual assault will not have to fight as hard as I did for justice."
The woman instructed Irwin Mitchell’s specialist International Serious Injury team to launch a legal case against Kuoni through which she and her husband booked their holiday.
James Riley, the specialist international serious injury solicitor at Irwin Mitchell, representing the woman, said after the hearing: “The horrifying ordeal that our client went through and the impact that it has had, not only on her but her family can’t be underestimated.
"Their lives are still greatly affected more than a decade on.
“While nothing can ever make up for what has happened we welcome this definitive judgment.
"What happened to our client on holiday is unthinkable and clearly falls far below a reasonable standard.
“Not only does the Supreme Court’s ruling provide our client with the justice she deserves, it’s also of major importance to the wider travel industry.
“The judgment provides clarity to tour operators regarding their legal obligations.
"Vitally it also preserves the rights of holidaymakers and protects them.
“We now urge tour operators to ensure, where possible, that they learn lessons from this case to protect holidaymakers.
“We will continue to support our client and her family so that they can try and come to terms with what has happened as best they can.”
During legal proceedings the High Court and the Court of Appeal ruled in Kuoni’s favour.
However, in July 2019 the Supreme Court handed down a preliminary judgment. It asked the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in Luxembourg to clarify the law on several further issues in the case as it has been pursued on the basis of regulations that originated from an EU Directive.
Earlier this year the CJEU ruled that, in view of the objective of ensuring a high level of consumer protection, a broad approach should be adopted when seeking to identify the scope of ancillary obligations undertaken under a package contract, irrespective of whether these obligations were to be performed by the package tour operator or by its suppliers of services.
The case was referred back to the Supreme Court for final judgment and Kuoni has been found liable today (July 30).
A spokesman for Kuoni said: “This was a traumatic incident for the claimant and we remain extremely sympathetic to the impact it’s had.
"After many years, we are pleased that the Supreme Court has provided clarity in a very complex case.
"We will now take time to consider the full verdict.”