A TRAVELLING bogus builder fleeced an elderly couple after pressurising them into paying for work on their home.
Dad-of-six Andrew Joseph Gaskin, from Hartlepool, paid a surprise visit to the home of a couple and told them they needed work doing on their property’s guttering and roof.
We are pleased that the courts have taken this matter seriously and this prosecution serves as a stark warning to others.Joanne Waller, head of environment, health and consumer protection at Durham County Council
Gaskin first conned the couple into getting work done, before it was found that the guttering still leaked afterwards and had not even been cleaned.
A court heard that heartless Gaskin had three previous convictions on his record after carrying out similar offences in York.
Trading standards officials have now warned residents to beware of bogus cold callers who can be aggressive as they bid to con householders.
Magistrates heard that the husband and wife paid him £100 to fix the gutters and £900 for the roof, with Gaskin promising to provide them with a certificate the next day so that they could claim back the cash through their insurance.
The document never materialised, however, and the homeowners telephoned the police.
Officers referred the case to Durham County Council’s Trading Standards team to investigate.
Catherine Burgess, prosecuting on behalf of Durham County Council, told the court: “The defendant paid an unsolicited visit to the victims’ property. He was in a van with J and B Roofing Specialists on it.
“The defendant told the victims that he could repair the roof for £900 but did insurance repair work for a bank and said that if she paid him £1,000 he would do a certificate for their insurance company and drop it off the next day.”
Miss Burgess added: “The victims felt pressurised into letting them do the roofing work and did not feel comfortable asking them to leave.
“The guttering which they paid £100 for was still leaking and had not been cleaned. He did not bring the certificate the next day.”
Gaskin, of Dalkeith Road, in the Rossmere area of Hartlepool, pleaded guilty to four charges under the Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
The first was that he failed to inform the consumer of their right to cancel the contract, he stated that he provided insurance repair work when this was not the case, was aggressive through the use of harassment, coercion or undue influence, and failed to provide them with an insurance certificate, all on April 5, 2013.
Justices also heard that Gaskin had three previous convictions for similar offences in York in October 2013.
Mitigating, Neil Taylor said his client was from the travelling community, and that the rest of his family reside in Doncaster where his father is battling cancer.
He said: “My client has a good work ethic and is trying to make an honest living now. He said his mistakes were down to ignorance.
“He is currently attending college in Middlesbrough to learn how to read and write.
“He has accepted his errors and he’s going about mending them.
“Often it takes a slap in the face to make people realise that what they have to do is educate themselves to make sure that they abide by the law.”
Chairman of the magistrates’ bench David Wilmers ordered Gaskin to carry our 240 hours unpaid work, ordered him to pay £1,500 compensation, £1,592.32 costs, and a £60 victim surcharge - a total court bill of £3,152.32.
Joanne Waller, head of environment, health and consumer protection at Durham County Council, said: “We are pleased that the courts have taken this matter seriously and this prosecution serves as a stark warning to others that cold calling and carrying out unsatisfactory work will not be tolerated.
“When choosing a reputable trader we would advise people to follow recommendations of family and friends and to gather quotes from different traders to compare prices. We would also urge residents to be especially cautious when dealing with cold callers who may engage in aggressive practices.
“The council also has a Registered Trader Scheme - details of which can be found at www.durham.gov.uk/registeredtraders.”