Plumber who tried to defraud a convent also preyed on the elderly

Trading Standards Officers

Posted on: 17 July 2018

A dishonest plumber who attempted to defraud a convent and charged an elderly victim almost triple the going rate for a bathroom refurbishment that experts branded as ‘unsafe’ has pleaded guilty to consumer protection offences.

Gary Henry, a 57 year old plumber from Instow, North Devon, pleaded guilty on Friday (July 13) at Exeter Crown Court to two Consumer Protection offences for a lack of professional diligence in relation to the quality and price of work that he had done for an elderly lady in Bishops Nympton, North Devon.

At an earlier hearing he had already pleaded guilty to a count of fraud in relation to work he had done for a Convent in Lynton, North Devon.

Henry, trading under the names of Barnstaple Plumbing and Heating, and Gary Henry Ltd, has operated his business in various areas of North Devon, having retired from the Fire Service several years ago.
This is the second time that Henry has been prosecuted by the Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service, having been previously convicted just three years ago.

In June 2015 he was convicted of three counts of fraud and three counts of Contravening Professional Diligence at Exeter Crown Court.
On that occasion, relating to work carried out in 2011 and 2012, Mr Henry had carried out work for several consumers, which was of a uniformly poor standard, so poor in fact that experts expressed safety concerns. The work also vastly overpriced to the extent that the court found him guilty of fraud and he was subsequently sentenced to two years imprisonment.

Henry was released from prison on licence in early 2016. In November 2016 while still on licence, he presented a fraudulent invoice in excess of £10,000 to a Roman Catholic parish priest, in respect of some plumbing work that he had carried out at the Convent of the Poor Clares, in Lynton, North Devon, six years previously.

The convent is not only home to a religious order of nuns, but is also the location of the local Roman Catholic parish church in Lynton.
The large invoice and the delay in presenting it, raised concerns with the parish administrator who on further research, found that Henry had recently been convicted for fraud. Devon Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards were then contacted.

The expert witness employed by Trading Standards found that not only had Henry charged for a far larger number hours than that represented by the actual work, but the work was poor and he had charged for a much greater length and more expensive type of copper pipework than was actually used. The invoice was for a sum well in excess of 200 % above than it should have been.

While being investigated Trading Standards officers were contacted by the concerned family of an elderly lady. In April 2017, again while Henry was still released from prison on licence, she had instructed him to refurbish her bathroom and to replace the hot water cylinder and had subsequently been charged £7860.

Expert inspection found a host of issues with the work which included the newly installed shower not working above waist height because the new hot water cylinder installed was not of the correct type to provide the necessary pressure, incorrect and unsafe installation of the hot water cylinder and feed tank as well as incorrect and unsafe pipework and connections between the feed tank and overflow pipework.

This could cause either central heating water to contaminate the domestic water supply in the house, or a scalding hazard, all of which were contraventions of Building Regulations 2010 or the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999 .

Overall the expert found the installation was of poor quality and the invoice presented for the work that was actually done was excessively overpriced to the tune of 180% more than a fair price.

Stephen Gardiner Interventions Manager for Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service said: “If you are looking tradesman to work on your property we recommend getting a range of quotes, and checking their references and credentials, including whether they are members of a legitimate trader approval scheme, such as Buy With Confidence.”

His Honour Judge Evans made a Financial Circumstances Order so that Mr Henry will now have to fully disclose his assets, income and financial liabilities prior to the sentencing hearing which will take place at Exeter Crown Court on 10 August 2018.

Councillor Rufus Gilbert, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for Trading Standards said: “I encourage anyone who suspects they have been conned to come forward. Rogue Traders use high pressure sales techniques and their work is often sub-standard or not required at all at best or dangerous and potentially life threatening at worst. They undermine legitimate traders who are trying to make an honest living.”

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