Sat, 23 Jan 2021
A ROGUE trader who preyed on two Thatcham residents has narrowly avoided imprisonment.
Instead, a judge ordered him to repay the thousands of pounds he bullied and conned his victims into shelling out for substandard or “valueless” work.
On Friday, Thomas Wall appeared for sentencing at Reading Crown Court.
Martha Smith-Higgins, prosecuting, said the 22-year-old, of Middle Ground, Wheatley, Oxfordshire, had cheated his victims – Frederick Stoneham, aged 77, and James Allen, aged 73 – when he was sole owner of the now-defunct Hallmark Roofing and Construction.
Mr Stoneham agreed a £6,600 quotation for work on his guttering.
However, the court heard, work was disorganised and slow, with workmen turning up sporadically, often with incorrect materials.
The workmen removed the felt from the roof after appearing to fix a leak and part of the roof then collapsed, said Ms Smith-Higgins.
An unknown friend of Wall’s then turned up and demanded £500 in cash, the judge was told.
When Mr Stoneham – who had already made seven payments – refused, the man threatened to remove the roof, added Ms Smith-Higgins.
In Mr Allen’s case, Wall exploited him by writing an invoice for £5,000 – double the agreed sum – for a new porch.
The work was done to such an exceptionally shoddy standard, the court heard, trading standards inspectors later branded it “valueless”.
Wall admitted, at a previous hearing, engaging in a consumer practice which was aggressive – namely removal of roof tiles without consent – at a home in Thatcham through the use of harassment, coercion or undue influence between March 6 and December 31, 2018.
Wall further admitted knowingly or recklessly engaging in a commercial practice which contravened the requirements of professional diligence, namely building works and the construction of a porch at a home in Thatcham, between November 1, 2018, and March 14, 2019.
Clea Topolski, defending, pointed out that her client had no previous convictions and was still a young man.
He had since wound up his company, the court heard.
His grandmother, Margaret Cash, gave a character reference to the court, stating that Wall was “a big help in my day-to-day needs” and that she would be “lost without him”.
Sentencing Wall, Judge Sarah Nott said that, rather than send him to prison, she would ensure he compensated his victims in full.
She added: “You didn’t target them initially because they were elderly, but because they were elderly you ended up abusing them.
“You had somebody attend the home of a 77-year-old man and bully him into paying you money while your work was substandard.
“I looked at the pre-sentence reports and it seems to me the best way you can make amends is to pay back every penny you’ve taken from these elderly gentlemen.
“You can continue in your paid employment to make sure you earn enough money to pay the money back.
“You have 12 months to make that payment.
“There’s no community service so you can go back to your daily work.
“It doesn’t matter if you make yourself bankrupt – that compensation will still be owed.”