Two builders who admitted intimidating an 82-year-old Colne widow into having low-quality building work carried out were sentenced at Burnley Crown Court on Wednesday following a prosecution by Lancashire County Council Trading Standards.
The court heard how the men were asked to repair a short length of cement on a one-storey kitchen extension, but harassed the householder, who is registered blind, into having work carried out on the upstairs bedroom window at her home in Colne.
In total she paid £1,450 cash to the two men. When she realised she had been conned she contacted trading standards, who arranged for a surveyor to check the work, then tracked down the workmen.
Stuart Leeming, of Dickson Street, Colne, and Christopher Peter Nolan of addresses at Carry Lane, Colne, and Hallam Road, Nelson, both admitted falsely claiming a vertical jamb would come out and fall through the kitchen roof if work was not carried out.
Leeming also admitted an aggressive practice when he demanded the immediate payment of cash, while Nolan admitted falsely claiming to be an architectural surveyor of 30 years’ standing, when he had no surveying qualifications at all.
The court heard how the high price charged was justified by the men with the claim an Acrow Prop had been used to remove the jamb on the upstairs window, when a survey showed this had not happened.
Each defendant was sentenced to 240 hours unpaid community work, while Leeming was also sentenced to 15 months imprisonment, suspended for two years. Both were ordered to pay compensation to the victim, with total costs of £1,200 to Lancashire County Council for bringing the prosecution.
Nolan was trading as C&P Property Maintenance, and Leeming was trading as BS Roofing and Guttering at the time of the offences.
County Coun. Janice Hanson, cabinet member for public protection, said: “It was impossible for this lady to check the workmen’s claims.
“At one point she had four or five men in the back yard of her terraced house and felt she had no choice but to pay in cash, as demanded. Fortunately she is a strong-minded and determined individual, and an excellent witness to the events, and the council would like to thank her for standing up to protect others.
“We are receiving a lot of calls about overcharged and unnecessary building and roofing work throughout Lancashire at the moment. This case highlights you should never deal with workmen who cold call, and always obtain a full quote in writing before work starts.
“We hope this prosecution and others like it will raise awareness of the dangers of rogue traders and dealing with doorstep callers.”
Anyone needing advice or wanting to report rogue traders or uninvited doorstep callers to Trading Standards can do so via the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 08454 04 05 06.
Anyone with information that would lead to the arrest of any distraction burglar or rogue trader should ring Lancashire Constabulary on 0845 1 25 35 45, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Residents are advised not to deal with cold calling builders and roofers and should instead ask for recommendations from family and friends or source one from Lancashire County Council’s Safe Trader Scheme. This scheme provides details of traders who have signed up to a code of conduct and can be contacted via the website www.traderregister.org.uk or by calling 0303 333 1111.