South Woodford builder who overcharged couple by more than £16,000 ordered to pay back cash

James Brien was ordered to pay a Potters Bar couple £17,500 after he pleaded guilty to ripping them

James Brien was ordered to pay a Potters Bar couple £17,500 after he pleaded guilty to ripping them off. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Archant

A South Woodford builder has been ordered to refund a couple the £17,500 he charged them for work worth only £1,124.

St Albans Crown Court heard on Monday (April 15) how George Lane resident James Brien ripped off the Potters Bar pair after they hired him to resurface their driveway, build new patios and replace a flat roof.

A Hertfordshire County Council investigation found the roof was “ill-fitting and unfit for purpose with inadequate support and drainage”.

He also damaged the neighbour’s wall in fence in the process.

The paving was also unfixed and uneven, with no drainage.

Passing sentence on Monday, Judge Michael Kay QC said: “These are very distressing matters for those who contract with builders.

“It’s a matter we all have to face at times, putting our trust in contractors we do not personally know.

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“We don’t expect work to be so grossly bad to go beyond diligence and amount to an offence.

“(The works) were so botched they had to be done again.”

In mitigation, the court was told that Brien had learnt his lesson and was prepared to pay the couple compensation to put things right for them, understanding the difficulty and distress caused.

He also pledged to ensure tighter control of his workforce.

The 27-year-old was given a 16-week suspended sentence after pleading guilty to three charges of engaging in unfair commercial practices under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

He was also ordered to pay the couple £17,500 in compensation and £500 in costs.

Guy Pratt, the council’s deputy director of community protection, said: “The facts in this case resulted in the builder breaching the criminal consumer protection law.

“This was not only a breach of contract between two parties.

“The trader failed to exercise the professional diligence expected in going about the project, failed to issue cancellation rights and as a result the consumers lost a considerable amount of money with no way to seek redress.

“Consumers are advised to protect themselves by taking great care in researching who they use to carry out home improvements.”