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Rogue builder “became aggressive and hostile”

A rogue builder who cold-called properties across South East Cornwall and persuaded home owners to have unnecessary work undertaken, finally admitted three charges under the Fraud Act at Truro Crown Court last Friday 28 August. 

The Court heard that John O’Connor, age 34 from Sutton Benger, Chippenham in Wiltshire, who traded under the company name of Civil Construction Ltd, used false addresses to give the impression his business was based at Saltash or Plymouth. He also failed to give home owners any cooling-off period, or any of the legally required information about the work he was offering to do.  

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The driveways and patios he laid were of such poor quality that many have had to be rectified since. And when any of his customers questioned the quality of his work he became hostile and aggressive. 

O’Connor returned to Truro Crown Court yesterday, Tuesday 1 September,  where he was sentenced to 8 months imprisonment (suspended for 2 years).  He was also ordered to pay compensation of £5,000 and the Council’s legal fees of £8.788.  

Leanne McLean, Trading Standards Lead Officer for Doorstep Crime explained: “Between November 2016 and the Spring of 2017 O’Connor travelled to Cornwall and called at properties in Looe, Liskeard and Torpoint without any prior appointment. He persuaded home owners to have driveways repaired or replaced or garden patios laid. For each job he charged an excessive price and exaggerated the amount of work that he would undertake.  

“In all cases the customers were unhappy with the quality of the work done. When they queried this or tried to withhold part payment until the work was rectified O’Connor became menacing and aggressive. In at least one instance, O’Connor returned to the property with another male and tried to persuade the home owner to have repairs done to the roof. Again, when the customer refused O’Connor became hostile. 

“When Trading Standards was called in to investigate a spate of complaints against him and his company, O’Connor went to ground and refused to be interviewed or cooperate in any way with the investigation. 

“But to travel all the way from Wiltshire to Cornwall, to call at properties without an appointment, and then to undertake work that was either not necessary or that was done to a poor standard clearly shows that this was a fraudulent business. With no intention to honour customer statutory rights nor to charge a fair price for quality work. This fraudulent intent has now been reflected in the sentence imposed by the Court.” 

Rob Nolan, Cornwall Council Portfolio Holder for Environment and Public Protection, said: “The circumstances of this criminal prosecution illustrate too clearly the dangers of agreeing to buy any goods or services from someone who turns up at the front door uninvited. Our Trading Standards Officers continue to work in partnership with Devon and Cornwall Police to tackle those who use unfair and misleading business practices to target our local communities. Traders operating in this way damage the reputation of reliable and trustworthy businesses.  

“Our advice is clear – NEVER deal with any tradesman who knocks at your door without a previous appointment.” 

Cornwall Council Trading Standards always recommends seeking a number of quotes before agreeing to work.  Also consider using Buy With Confidence approved businesses, who have been audited and accredited by Trading Standards.  Visit Buy with Confidence website for more information.