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Criminal Law: 'Winter Wonderland' brothers found guilty of misleading customers

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Two brothers from Brighton have been convicted of misleading consumers after what was advertised as a Lapland-style theme park in the New Forest turned out to be a muddy field with a broken ice rink and no reindeer in sight.

Victor and Henry Mears advertised their winter wonderland in 2008, promising families a special Christmas treat, complete with a bustling market, magical snow, and picturesque log cabins. However, within an hour of its opening, hundreds of thoroughly disappointed customers had complained to the local authority's trading standards.

Customers, who were charged £30 each for a ticket (£10 for children under two), were presented with fairy lights strung on trees instead of a "magical tunnel of light" and two food stalls selling German sausage instead of a bustling market.

The brothers, who stood to make an estimated £1 million from the attraction, wrote on their website that "the attention to detail of our theme park will truly wow you".

The Crown Court in Bristol today convicted the brothers of five counts of engaging in a commercial practice which was a misleading action. The jury is still deliberating on a further three charges of engaging in a commercial practice which was a misleading omission.

The offences are contained in the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and are intended to punish those who mislead customers with descriptions of goods or services.

When sentenced in a Magistrates' Court, the offences carry a maximum of a £5,000 fine per offence. However, because the brothers have been convicted in a Crown Court, they could be sent to jail for a maximum sentence of two years and/ or an unlimited fine.

The brothers denied all the charges and blamed the state of the site on "New Forest villains".

For more on the story (Guardian)
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