More than 35 victims who were ruthlessly targeted on their own doorsteps by a rogue building company have seen justice served after the company’s sole director, William Henry King, was sentenced to 14 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, at Maidstone Crown Court.
King had previously admitted engaging in unfair trading practices through his company, Sure Seal Home Improvements Company Limited, which was brought before the courts for similar offences in 2010 and 2011.
Its principal labourer Mark Doyle was also sentenced to six months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, and 120 hours community service for breaching the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
The pair aggressively targeted vulnerable people for building work.
The investigation, co-ordinated by Kent County Council Trading Standards and supported by National Trading Standards (NTS) has resulted in the 38 victims from across the country being compensated with a total of £128,974.
A costs order of nearly £20,500 was also made.
The defendants admitted obtaining work by aggressive methods, overcharging consumers and carrying out and charging for unnecessary works. They also refused to honour guarantees and left a trail of shoddy workmanship in their wake.
In summing up the sentencing, Judge St John-Stevens, whist giving credit to Mr King for his guilty plea and recognising he had agreed to refund his victims, called the offending “mean and hostile” and that it specifically “targeted the vulnerable”.
Representing the prosecution, James Dennison, said “what was said to be done was not done and what was done was not done properly”.
Doorstep crime involves criminals preying on vulnerable people – often older and living with ill health – by cold-calling at their homes and pressurising them into paying extortionate prices for unnecessary goods or services.
The outcome is often botched jobs on roofs, driveways and gardens and sees consumers coerced into paying significant sums – often their life savings – to the criminals.
Sure Seal Home Improvements marketed itself as a “refurbishment specialist” company offering services such as exterior painting and roof refurbishment.
The business would often leaflet or “cold call” home owners and occupiers when working on neighbouring properties.
Many of the consumers targeted by the criminals were elderly and unable to check whether the agreed work had been completed.
One victim, who is to receive compensation totalling £7,400, broke down in tears when hearing the news that she would be seeing her money returned. Another victim, who is to receive £15,025 in compensation, said that the result was “absolutely brilliant”.
Clive Phillips, Operations Manager for KCC Trading Standards said: “This investigation goes to show what can be achieved when victims stand up against criminals and when local authorities work together to tackle cross border crime.
“I would like to not only thank the officer in charge of the investigation that drove this case forward, leaving no stone unturned, our legal team, the many local authorities involved, the support from NTS but also the victims in the case who agreed to provide vital evidence that helped secure the conviction.
“I am pleased that there was recognition by Mr King that he had not done all he could to avoid his customers receiving such bad services and I am delighted that many victims in the case will see some of their money returned to them.
“Our advice is wherever possible always seek more than one quote when thinking of having work done to your home. Often these types of scammers will tell you your home needs repair when it does not – ask a neighbours’ opinion and if in doubt just say no.”
Lord Toby Harris, Chairman of National Trading Standards, said: “I am delighted to see that justice has been served for the aggressive and deceitful practices that these criminals pursued in order to mislead elderly and vulnerable consumers.
“Doorstep crime is an issue that continues to leave many members of the community scared and bankrupt. I congratulate all of the teams involved who worked together to uncover the breadth of the criminal activity.
“I urge everyone to think twice before agreeing to purchase products from cold callers and on-street salespeople. Always check references and credentials before paying out any money and if you are in any doubt, contact your local trading standards department or the Citizens Advice consumer helpline.”
The national crime investigation included the liaison of 29 local authority Trading Standards services, two Scambuster teams; National Trading Standards Scambuster Team East Midlands and National Trading Standards Scambuster Team Tri Region, and Nottinghamshire Police.