Greeks free holiday reps arrested over pub crawls

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The Independent Online

Greek fury at the increasingly loutish behaviour of British tourists took a twist yesterday when five holiday reps appeared in court accused of encouraging antisocial binge drinking.

The two men and three women had been arrested in the resort of Faliraki. The charges were dismissed after a brief hearing in Rhodes but their arrests were the strongest signal yet that the Greek authorities plan to clamp down on yobbish behaviour at resorts.

Faliraki has developed an unenviable reputation from the hordes of teenagers who roam its bars getting into drunken brawls. Sexual assaults have increased in frequency and family tourists are deserting the resort. Only last week the authorities in the once sleepy fishing village clamped down on bar crawls after the death of 17-year-old Paddy Doran.

Captain Themis Kalamatas, Faliraki's police chief, has stopped the practice of encouraging groups of youngsters to embark on heavy drinking sessions ­ allegedly in return for commission from the bars ­ after Doran, from Peterborough, had a broken beer bottle plunged into his neck in a drunken argument.

Yesterday, Capt Kalamatas said the arrests were necessary "not only for the sake of the image of Greece's tourism, but also for the sake of the overwhelming majority of British holidaymakers, who want to enjoy their vacations in peace".

Thomas Battista, 31, of First Choice Holidays, and Sarah-Louise Sharkey, 34, of Olympic Holidays, were arrested on Thursday and accused of encouraging binge drinking. On Sunday, three Club 18-30 reps ­ Emily Dean, 20, and Derek Kelis, 24, both from London, and Claire Hullock, 20, from Leeds ­ were also accused of "guided, illegal trade".

Kratinos Pyliotis, of Olympic Holidays, said that Ms Sharkey, from Penrith, had been charged with hosting an illegal excursion that had not been organised through a local agent, as well as not having a tourist guide licence. Both charges were dismissed. Holiday reps, Mr Pyliotis said, were not required to have such a licence.

"They banned such activities [bar crawls] from taking place without the permission of a local travel agency. All our activities, however, are organised through a local travel agency. There was no reason any one of these arrests should have taken place."

He added: "It was an over-reaction by the local authorities who were trying to make their presence felt."

The other four faced similar charges but all were dismissed. Mr Battista, from Birmingham, was also accused inaccurately of not having a proper work permit.

Yesterday Claire Headicar, of First Choice Holidays, said the company had been unaware of any ban on bar crawls and would be speaking to the local authorities. "If they were banned, the authorities have not advised us of that and we continued to do them not realising the situation. We have cancelled all excursions at the moment. It was just a miscommunication," she said.

Club 18-30 said its reps had been supervising a trip to a Faliraki nightclub. Paul Little, the company's overseas director, said its staff had been "detained illegally and in breach of their human rights ... We are considering taking legal advice on that."

Last month, Club 18-30 and the Association of British Travel Agents apologised when five group leaders staged an oral sex competition on the beach at Kavos resort, Corfu.

Yesterday, Peter Navarro, 21, of Wirral, Merseyside, who has been accused of killing Paddy Doran, appeared in court in Rhodes. His lawyer, Akis Dimitriadis, who also represents nine other Britons arrested in connection with the stabbing, said he had been acting in self-defence. The nine Britons are charged with complicity. Six testified yesterday and all denied the charges.