Builder who ripped off Potters Bar couple handed suspended prison sentence and £18,000 compensation order

PUBLISHED: 11:52 17 April 2019 | UPDATED: 11:53 17 April 2019

James Brien, 27, of George Lane, South Woodford, pleaded guilty to three charges at St Albans Crown Court on Monday. Picture: DANNY LOO

James Brien, 27, of George Lane, South Woodford, pleaded guilty to three charges at St Albans Crown Court on Monday. Picture: DANNY LOO

©2019 Archant

A builder has been handed a suspended prison sentence and ordered to compensate a Potters Bar couple he ripped off.

James Brien, 27, of George Lane, South Woodford, pleaded guilty to three charges of engaging in unfair commercial practices under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, at St Albans Crown Court on Monday.

An investigation by Hertfordshire County Council led to his prosecution for his incomplete and shoddy work.

Brien carried out work to resurface the driveway, build new patios and replace a flat roof.

He was paid £17,500 for the work, which was estimated to be valued at just £1,124.

The matter was reported to Hertfordshire Trading Standards in February 2018, with the investigation revealing numerous defects in all aspects of the building work Brien carried out.

The replacement flat roof was ill-fitting and unfit for purpose, with inadequate support, waterproofing and drainage.

The paving was unfixed and uneven, with no drainage.

During the work, he also caused damage to a neighbour's wall and fence.

Passing sentence on Monday, Judge Michael Kay QC said: “These are very distressing matters for those who contract with builders.

“It's a matter we all have to face at times, putting our trust in contractors we do not personally know.

“We don't expect work to be so grossly bad to go beyond diligence and amount to an offence.

“(The works) were so botched they had to be done again.”

In mitigation, the court was told that Brien had learnt his lesson and was prepared to pay the couple compensation to put things right for them, understanding the difficulty and distress caused.

He also pledged to ensure tighter control of his workforce.

The judge also noted that Brien had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity and had not previously been before a court for matters such as this.

Brien received a 16-week suspended prison sentence and has been ordered to pay £17,500 in compensation, plus £500 in costs.

Hertfordshire County Council deputy director of community protection Guy Pratt said: “The facts in this case resulted in the builder breaching the criminal consumer protection law.

“This was not only a breach of contract between two parties.

“The trader failed to exercise the professional diligence expected in going about the project, failed to issue cancellation rights and as a result the consumers lost a considerable amount of money with no way to seek redress.

“Consumers are advised to protect themselves by taking great care in researching who they use to carry out home improvements.

“The process inevitably involves both a financial and emotional investment and it can be a devastating blow when aspirations do not materialise.

“Before undertaking jobs, builders need to ensure that they can carry out their work with competence, solvency and a willingness to correct any bad workmanship.”

For further information on finding a trustworthy trader, or to report a trader, visit https://www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/services/Business/Consumer-advice/Consumer-advice.aspx.

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