Two brothers have been convicted of misleading thousands of customers into visiting what they claimed was a Lapland-style theme park.
Victor and Henry Mears had denied eight charges brought in connection with their disastrous Lapland New Forest theme park. But they were found guilty on all counts after a jury at Bristol Crown Court heard a catalogue of complaints from a string of disgruntled customers.
Victor, 67, of Selsfield Drive, and Henry, 60, of Coombe Road, both Brighton, could have made more than £1 million from up to 10,000 advanced ticket sales for the theme park.
Visitors were offered a winter wonderland with snow-covered log cabins, a nativity scene, husky dogs, polar bears and other animals, as well as a bustling Christmas market. But instead of the promised magical festive treat, they experienced fairy lights hung from trees and a broken ice rink.
Within days of the attraction opening in November 2008, hundreds of disgruntled visitors to the park on the Hampshire-Dorset border complained to trading standards officials that they had been ripped off.
Less than a week later, the attraction closed, with its owners blaming the media and sabotage by “New Forest villains” for the decision.
The brothers were convicted after a two-month trial of five charges of engaging in a commercial practice which was a misleading action and three of engaging in a commercial practice which was a misleading omission.
Judge Mark Horton adjourned sentencing until March 18 for the preparation of pre-sentence reports but warned the brothers they could be jailed.
Addressing barrister Rossano Scarmardella, who represents Henry Mears, the judge said: “In this case this jury have found that your client and Mr Victor Mears have promised by deceit to satisfy dreams and have delivered misery by way of disappointment to thousands of people.
“I am bound to say that this court is considering in this case whether a term of imprisonment may follow.”