Ben Ireland reports from the Royal Courts of Justice
Health and safety audits of the hotel where 30 Britons were killed in a terror attack did not include security checks, a court has heard.
A lone gunman slayed 38 tourists in a killing spree at the Imperial Marhaba Hotel, which was co-owned by Tui, and its adjoining beach in Sousse, Tunisia in 2015.
The inquests into the 30 Britons who died have heard evidence from Tui’s director of risk compliance UK&I, Jacque Reynolds.
Ahead of the attack, health and safety checks were carried out at the hotel by independent auditing firm Argent, but these did not extend to security assessments.
In court, Reynolds was shown the Tourism Accommodation Health and Safety Technical Guide which sets the “base standard” of health and safety, including security, for UK our operators’ overseas accommodations.
She said it helped Tui provide a checklist for hotels to work with for health and safety, and helped provide a “common sense-based approach” to security.
Reynolds said: “The number of CCTV cameras could be monitored but the way it would be determined that the right number of CCTV cameras are in place isn’t consistent across all the accommodation.
“It would need somebody who had some background in threat assessment and vulnerability assessment.
“The expectation in the blue book is that if the hotel themselves don’t have somebody to give them advice it asks they should go and seek advice from someone who does have that experience.
“These auditors don’t have the experience or access to that information and to understand whether the security infrastructure at any given accommodation is adequate and appropriate.”
Andrew Ritchie, representing 18 of the families of the victims, put it to Reynolds that Tui should have audited its security and recorded the findings.
She said she disagreed because the Foreign Office travel advice for the Sousse area of Tunisia remained green – although the terror threat was set to high.
Reynolds added: “If we had written confirmation from Imperial Marhaba Hotel that their security was not appropriate to the risk level, then we would have acted.” Reynolds said this could include closing parts of the hotel or stopping sending guests altogether.
She said she was not aware of any other UK tour operators who were completing full security checks and Argent was contracted by other major UK tour operators on the same basis.
Argent’s review, in April 2014, gave the Imperial Marhaba Hotel 2/5 for ‘general safety’.
Reynolds said reps and Tui staff in Tunisia were expected to raise concerns through the escalation process and denied receiving any warning about security issues in Tunisia ahead of Sousse.
In court, she was also asked about an email she received from a security expert including a YouTube video of IS declaring it will carry out attacks in Tunisia. She said it was an “unusual” email to receive, but that similar emails were received around once a month.
Reynolds forwarded the email on to Abta without taking further action.
The inquest heard that Tui had commissioned a report by security firm Covenant into its hotels in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, after a terrorist incident at the resort of Luxor in 2014.
Ritchie suggested that this proves that the operator is capable of taking its own action rather than wait for the Foreign Office to change its travel advice.
Reynolds told the court that Tui has an internal “risk register”, which gives the company a “generalised” outlook of the threat of terror which is not country-specific, and instead defaults to the level for the most at-risk country where Tui operates.
Tui has since hired a German security specialist with “considerable experience” at its head office in Hannover to oversee its prevention of terror attacks, Reynolds added.
Evidence was also heard from Paul Summerell, of Tui Destination Services, who said he had flagged the risk of a terror attack in Tunisia ahead of the massacre.
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