Rogue trader is given suspended jail term

A ROGUE trader who overcharged an 82-year-old widow more than �18,000 for work at her Suffolk home has walked free from court after agreeing to repay the money.

James Doran, 25, was given a 12-month prison sentence suspended for two years and ordered to do 200 hours unpaid work in the community after a court heard he had repaid �15,000 of the money and would sell his car to meet the remaining debt.

Sentencing Doran, Judge Peter Fenn described him as a “rogue trader” and said he had “milked” his victim for “as much as he could get out of her”.

He said the only reason he wasn’t sending Doran straight to prison was the fact he was repaying the money he had overcharged.

Ipswich Crown Court heard that Doran called at the woman’s detached home in Cobbold Road, Felixstowe, last spring and persuaded her to have block paving laid at the front of her house without mentioning how much it was going to cost her.

The work took two days to complete and Doran then presented the woman with a bill for �4,550, Andrew Shaw, prosecuting, said.

A surveyor who later examined the work found that Doran had used unsuitable blocks and that they had been poorly laid with uneven edges. “He estimated that the cost of the work, if it had been done properly, would have been �1,600 and not �4,500,” Mr Shaw said.

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Doran had then suggested he put down tarmac at the side and rear of the property and again no price was discussed. On completion of the work he asked the woman for �14,000 and she handed over the money.

He had then suggested that some paving slabs in the garden needed relaying and had charged �1,400 for a morning’s work, Mr Shaw said.

A surveyor later found the tarmac had not been put down with a textile underlay to prevent weeds growing through and the true value of the work if it had been properly carried out would have been �4,500 and not �14,000.

He also valued the relaying of the paving slabs at �200 rather than the �1,500 demanded by Doran.

The police became involved after another man called at the woman’s house saying she owed a further �25,000. The woman had been confused and when she rang her neighbour for advice the man had run off, Mr Shaw said.

The court heard that Doran had previously been spoken to by police about cold-calling after offering to do work for another resident in the area and had also appeared in court in 2008 for providing a false address on paperwork advertising his business.

Doran, of Northampton, admitted fraud by false representation and failure to supply a cancellation document. In addition to the community order and suspended sentence Doran was ordered to attend a Thinking Skills programme and an Employment Training and Education course.

Anthony Wyatt, for Doran, said his client had believed the work he did for the woman was acceptable and had not overcharged her for ”wilfully bad work”.

“He thinks he is rather better at building than he actually is,” Mr Wyatt said.

He said Doran was no longer in the construction business and had turned his hand to furniture removal.

Mr Wyatt said the man who asked the woman for �25,000 was a relative of Doran’s wife who had gone to her house without Doran’s knowledge after hearing she was a “soft touch”.

After the hearing Tony Doorly, senior trading standards officer at Suffolk County Council, warned people, particularly the elderly and vulnerable, to be wary of door-to-door callers.

“This case highlights the issue of dealing with people knocking on doors unannounced. We would advise people to take care, think about whether you want the work done, and not to be rushed into doing it.”

He said door-to-door callers were obliged to provide customers with cancellation documents and if they started the work immediately had to get the customer’s written consent.