Barrie John Henry Birch and his firm BBS Improvements Limited were sentenced after a joint investigation by Worcestershire Trading Standards Service and the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) uncovered a string of health & safety and fraud offences.
The firm was fined just £200 but Birch got a suspended jail term, a community service order and a director’s ban.
Worcester Crown Court heard how Birch, operating as BBS Improvements Ltd, was employed to carry out building work on a domestic property in Redditch in May 2017. A complaint was made to Worcestershire Trading Standards, who instructed an expert to examine the roof. The expert confirmed that the work was totally unnecessary and that the work done had no value whatsoever. During the course of their investigations Trading Standards officers also uncovered health & safety issues.
HSE inspectors found that the company was carrying out work at height without scaffolding and that there were no measures in place to prevent employees from falling. People were walking on the roof of the house with no safety measures in place to prevent them from falling and Birch was present and fully aware of the people working unsafely on the roof.
At the time the complaint was received Birch was also before the court for similar offences committed while trading as a sole trader under the name BBS Improvements.
The court heard how Birch was employed to carry out minor roofing repair work on a domestic property in Bromsgrove in June 2016. After inspecting the roof, Birch advised the homeowner that the whole roof required replacing. A Trading Standards investigation, involving an expert examination of the roof found that the work to replace the roof was not needed.
Birch admitted an offence under the Fraud Act 2006 and an offence under the Consumer Protection from unfair Trading Regulations 2008 in relation to unnecessary work carried out at the Bromsgrove property in June 2016. He also pleaded guilty to breaching Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
He also asked for five similar offences to be taken into consideration including two offences of failing to provide the 10 Year Insurance Backed Guarantee.
Birch was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, ordered to do 250 hours of unpaid work and was disqualified from being a company director for five years. He was ordered to pay compensation to the victims and to make a contribution to the prosecution costs.
BBS Improvements Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 6 (3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and was fined £200.
HSE inspector Matthew Whitaker said after the hearing: “This prosecution demonstrates how the HSE works in partnership with other enforcers like Trading Standards to tackle serious crime and dangerous working practices which put people at risk of death and serious injury.
“Falls from height remain one of the most common causes of work related fatalities in this country and the risks associated with working at height are well known.
Worcestershire County Councillor Lucy Hodgson said: “The work done by our small team of Trading Standards Officers to protect Worcestershire consumers cannot go unrecognised. In this case Barrie Birch was instructed to carry out relatively minor work but then advised the homeowners that major work was needed when it was not.
“This type of fraudulent activity will not be tolerated in Worcestershire. Our Trading Standards Officers actively investigate criminal complaints of rogue builders such as this, and will continue to do so to protect the public.
“The sentence handed down in this case clearly shows that the courts view this type of offending very seriously.”
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