Trading standards warning following prosecution

Published Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Residents, including those who may be seen as elderly or vulnerable, are being warned to be highly vigilant following the latest prosecution of two gardeners who cold-called a resident.

The warning follows an incident where a 74 year old female resident who was cold called by two gardeners and charged £18,640 for work which an expert estimated to be worth no more than £1,600. Orpington based Clive Gibson and Danny Whitehead pleaded guilty to fraud charges and were sentenced at Croydon Crown Court. 

Each defendant was sentenced to an 18 month suspended sentence, suspended for two years, with 80 hours of unpaid work and 10 days of rehabilitation activity requirement. The judge ordered Mr Whitehead to pay £2,540 compensation to the victim and Mr Gibson to pay £2,500 compensation.

Following the initial cold call, the pair returned to the victim 12 times, each time demanding payment for work for routine gardening maintenance. The fraud came to light when the victims bank alerted Bromley trading standards who then conducted an investigation under the Fraud Act 2006. Both defendants pleaded guilty to fraud charges.

Councillor Angela Page, Executive Councillor for Public Protection and Enforcement and SCAMbassador said: “Society owes a duty of care to look after the elderly and vulnerable, but these defendants exploited and victimised this resident. It is pleasing that the court recognised the fact that the defendants had deliberately targeted the victim on the basis of her vulnerability and also carried out this fraud over a sustained length of time. This case demonstrates why we as a local authority treat these offences as hate crime.”

Councillor Page continued, “Please take steps to protect yourself and take time to seek out bonafide tradespeople.  People often appear to be plausible and highly persuasive on the doorstep but the reality can be quite different.  Always remember you can say ‘no thank you’ and close your door.”

In sentencing, Miss Recorder Proudfoot said the most telling part of the Victim Impact Statement was that the victim was made to feel like she had been burgled, which indicated the deeply unpleasant nature of this offence. The judge described how the victim had been made to feel trapped in her own home as a result of the defendants’ actions.  In a victim impact statement the resident said “After trading standards fitted a camera on my front door, I felt a lot safer. I felt as if I could say ‘No more, I’ve got this now”.

The trading standards advice is not to deal with doorstep callers without making thorough checks first.  Residents are also warned not to pay large sums of money in advance, instead they are advised to make payments as works progresses.  Residents are also advised to get a minimum of three written quotes and seek references or seek out reviews they can rely on. Find out more at www.bromley.gov.uk/tradingstandards

Call the council’s trading standards rapid response team on 07903 852090 if you, or someone you know, suspects you’re being scammed or the potential victim of a ‘rogue trader’.  Information and advice about avoiding scams is available by visiting www.bromley.gov.uk/scams where residents can also sign-up to trading standards email alerts.

Ends

Editor’s notes – Priority four in the Bromley Community safety Partnership Strategy 2020 to 2023, ‘Standing Together Against Hate Crime’ states that “there is emerging recognition that financial abuse of the elderly (or otherwise vulnerable residents) should also be considered as a hate crime, as perpetrators deliberately choose their victims on the basis of the perceived vulnerability that may be associated with their age.”

For media enquiries, please contact Andrew Rogers, Communications Executive, on 020 8461 7670 or email andrew.rogers@bromley.gov.uk