Travel boss avoids jail after ATOL error costs clients £350k

By Lisa James
Home » Travel boss avoids jail after ATOL error costs clients £350k

A former travel boss has received a suspended sentence after admitting he wrongly indicated he held an ATOL certificate.

Marcus Buckley-Bennion’s customers lost over £350,000 when their trips were cancelled and he was only spared jail because he is the lone carer for his partner.

Buckley-Bennion successfully ran Dukes Sport Travel, specialising in school trips, with suitable ATOL cover for many years.

Lincoln Crown Court heard Buckley-Bennion was legitimately reliant on ATOL certification held by another company, Matchpoint Europe Ltd, of which he was not a director.

ATOL cover was still in place when a number of schools made bookings for trips in the autumn of 2015 and 2016 but the certificate lapsed on 30 September 2016 when it was not renewed by the Civi Aviation Authority.

At an earlier hearing, where Buckley-Bennion pleaded guilty to wrongly indicating that he was the holder of an ATOL certificate, the court was told he genuinely believed the ATOL would be renewed until 1 December 2016 and then made extensive efforts to ensure the trips were covered.

Judge Catarina Sjolin Knight said she accepted Buckley-Bennion had not set out to fool anyone as ATOL was in place when the bookings were made.

But she added: “Between the start of October 2016 and the end of March 2017 you indicated to various people that you had a ATOL certificate. At that point that wasn’t true.”

Judge Sjolin Knight said: “These are schools which have taken a big hit.”

In total, eight independent and grammar schools suffered losses of £358,007 and had to cancel their trips. One school lost £108,500; another £97,422 and another lost £44,736.

Buckley-Bennion, 64, was given a 16-week suspended jail sentence and banned from being a company director for four years, local news organisation the Lincolnite reports.

He was also ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work in the community and pay compensation of £35,200.

The Crown Prosecution Service offered no evidence on eight fraud charges which Buckley-Bennion had denied and not guilty verdicts were entered.

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