Posted on: 13 August 2018
A dishonest plumber who charged an elderly victim almost three times the going rate for a bathroom refurbishment that experts called ‘unsafe’ has been sentenced for fraud and consumer protection offences.
Gary Henry, a 57 year old plumber from Instow, north Devon, has been sentenced today (Friday 10 August) at Exeter Crown Court in for a fraud offence committed in relation to work he had done for a convent in Lynton, North Devon. He was sentenced to eight months in jail, suspended for 18 months, and fined £8,000.
He was also sentenced for two consumer protection offences for a lack of professional diligence in relation to the quality and price of work that he had done for an elderly lady in Bishops Nympton, North Devon. He was sentenced to four months in jail for each of these, suspended for 18 months. He also has to pay compensation to the victim of £1,362 and pay costs of £6,500.
He had pleaded guilty to the offences at earlier hearings.
Henry, trading under the names of Barnstaple Plumbing and Heating, and Gary Henry Ltd, has operated his business in various areas of north Devon, having retired from the fire service several years ago.
This is the second time that Henry has been prosecuted by the Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service, having been previously convicted just three years ago.
In June 2015, he was convicted of three counts of fraud and three counts of Contravening Professional Diligence at Exeter Crown Court. On that occasion, relating to work carried out in 2011 and 2012, Henry had carried out work for several consumers, which was of a uniformly poor standard, so poor in fact that experts expressed safety concerns. The work also vastly overpriced to the extent that the court found him guilty of fraud and he was subsequently sentenced to two years imprisonment.
Henry was released from prison on licence in early 2016. In November 2016 while still on licence, he presented a fraudulent invoice in excess of £10,000 to a Roman Catholic parish priest, in respect of some plumbing work that he had carried out at the Convent of the Poor Clares, in Lynton, North Devon, six years previously.
The convent is not only home to a religious order of nuns but is also the location of the local Roman Catholic parish church in Lynton. The large invoice and the delay in presenting it raised concerns with the parish administrator who on further research, found that Henry had recently been convicted for fraud. Devon Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards were then contacted.
The expert witness employed by Trading Standards found that not only had Henry charged for a far larger number of hours than that represented by the actual work, but had also charged for a much greater length and more expensive type of copper pipework than was actually used. The invoice was for a sum of around 200% above the amount it should have been.
In addition to this, the quality of the work was poor. While being investigated Trading Standards officers were contacted by the concerned family of an elderly lady. In April 2017, again while Henry was still released from prison on licence, she had instructed him to refurbish her bathroom and to replace the hot water cylinder and had subsequently been charged £7,860.
Expert inspection found a host of issues with the work which included the newly installed shower not working above waist height because the new hot water cylinder installed was not of the correct type to provide the necessary pressure, incorrect and unsafe installation of the hot water cylinder and feed tank as well as incorrect and unsafe pipework and connections between the feed tank and overflow pipework.
This could cause either central heating water to contaminate the domestic water supply in the house, or a scalding hazard, all of which were contraventions of Building Regulations 2010 or the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999.
Overall the expert found the installation was of poor quality and the invoice presented for the work that was actually done was excessively overpriced to the tune of 180% more than a fair price.
Stephen Gardiner, Interventions Manager for Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service, said:
“If you are looking for a tradesman to work on your property we recommend getting a range of quotes, and checking their references and credentials, including whether they are members of a legitimate trader approval scheme, such as Buy With Confidence.”