Beware conmen as Swanage man jailed

A Swanage man has been sentenced to 200 hours community service and fined £2,085 after attempting to charge an 84-year-old woman an excessive amount for roofing work that was not even needed.

Alan Witchell, 30, pleaded guilty to three offences under the Consumer Protection From Unfair Trading Regulations at a hearing at Bournemouth Crown Court, following an investigation by Dorset County Council Trading Standards officers.

In 2017, Mr Witchell called on the woman’s home initially to inspect some loft insulation that had previously been installed. He then went on to persuade her that she needed to have the outside of her roof cleaned and treated with a protective coating on the basis that the roof was covered in moss and that if the moss froze it would damage the tiles. The total cost was to be £5371.50.

When the victim went to the bank to raise the money for the £1000 deposit the bank intervened and called the police and so no money was lost.

Expert evidence showed that the moss presented no risk to the tiles, the work was unnecessary and a reasonable price for the work was just £1350.00.

Sentencing him, the judge told Mr Witchell that if he had been involved in the organisation of the crime he would have been send straight to prison. However, the judge accepted that he had been recruited by others, but that Witchell “must have appreciated [the victim] was going to be fleeced” and so sentenced him to 200 hours of community work over two years.

Richard Herringshaw, principal Trading Standards officer for Dorset County Council said: “I hope this sentence acts as a deterrent for others. I must thank the victim for agreeing to provide a statement, without which we would not have been able to take this further. The case came to light through our close working relationship with Dorset Police and our continued focus on rogue traders.

Consumers who want to report unfair trading problems to Trading Standards, or to complain about any goods or services, should contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06.