Southampton City Council’s Trading Standards service, working in partnership with the Regional Investigation Team, have secured a significant conviction against a rogue plumbing and drainage engineer.
Jake Broughton of 41 Curzon Road, Bournemouth, was sentenced to nine months in custody, suspended for two years, and 250 hours community service on 25 November having been found guilty of five counts of Fraud by false misrepresentation under Section 2 of the Fraud Act 2006, following a two week trial at Southampton Crown Court, concluding on 16 October 2020.
A lengthy investigation into the activities of Mr Broughton between March 2016 and March 2017, working with the victims, some of whom were elderly and vulnerable, uncovered numerous instances of dishonest practice and overcharging for work carried out. Broughton, a drainage engineer, undertook drainage work on behalf of plumbers 24/7 Ltd and 24HR Services Ltd.
Having received a number of complaints via the Citizens Advice Consumer Service about Plumbers 24/7 Ltd, later changing their trading name to 24HR Services Ltd, Southampton Trading Standards, with support from National Trading Standards, investigated the complaints.
The investigation found Mr Broughton had dishonestly made representations to five victims from Bath, Bognor Regis, Northampton, Banwell, North Somerset and Southampton, and that the price charged for the drainage work was not a fair and reasonable price.
Evidence from an independent drainage expert in the trial stated that in the majority of the five cases the victims should only have been charged £54.16 for one engineer to simply clear a blockage within half an hour. This assessment was based on the company’s own emergency rates. Mr Broughton had charged victims between £407.33 and £5178.75.
As part of the trial officers from the Trading Standards Service and the National Trading Standards Regional Investigation Team liaised with witnesses and court services in order for them to give live evidence in court. Due to the current climate, this included getting some of the witnesses to different courts throughout the UK to give evidence via a live video link. One witness, 88 years old, too frail to leave her own home, gave evidence live from her own front room.
HHJ Rowland, who presided over the case, has ordered compensation to be paid to the victims.
The daughter of one of the victims, said: "I was horrified that this engineer had treated my mother in a way which caused her a great deal of distress and anxiety. She has since passed away, but this incident remained with her, continually causing her a great deal of stress and worry. It shook her confidence and she never really recovered. I am pleased that justice has now been done."
Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, said:
"Mr Broughton deliberately misled his victims, pressurising them into paying vast and unreasonable sums of money for basic work. National Trading Standards provided resource and expertise to support this investigation and I would like to thank all involved in securing this sentence.
"We will not tolerate dishonest practices and are committed to safeguarding consumers and honest businesses. If you or someone you know, has fallen victim to a fraud like this you should report it to the Citizens Advice consumer service helpline by calling 0808 223 1133.”
Andrew Clooney, Chair of the NTS Tri Regional Investigation Team said:
“Officers from our Regional Team were instrumental in providing operational support to Southampton City Council Trading Standards and ending the large and widespread offending linked to this Emergency Plumbing and drainage ‘engineer’. The investigation has evidenced complaints over a wide area, including the South West, South East, London and as far as north as the East Midlands. Often the complainants were elderly and always in a vulnerable position."
Cabinet Member for Stronger Communities at Southampton City Council, Councillor David Shields, said:
“This is another excellent result for the Trading Standards teams and will hopefully offer some comfort to the victims of Mr Broughton. I’m also keen to ensure that those who try and take financial advantage of our more vulnerable citizens know that we won’t hesitate to use the full force of the legal powers available to us to protect them.
“This conviction for Fraud should help to send a clear message to anyone that works as a sub-contractor or engineer, in any industry, that they are liable for the charges made to consumers. If you believe that any charges are disproportionate for the work carried out, you should think twice before applying them.”
Notes to Editors
Southampton City Council Trading Standards' webpages.
National Trading Standards delivers national and regional consumer protection enforcement. Its Board is made up of senior and experienced heads of local government trading standards from around England and Wales with an independent Chair. Its purpose is to protect consumers and safeguard legitimate businesses by tackling serious national and regional consumer protection issues and organised criminality.