Businessman fined for pressuring elderly customers into paying for unnecessary home improvement work
By Court reporter | 29th March 2023
A businessman who used 'aggressive and misleading' tactics to persuade two elderly customers to pay for unnecessary home improvement work has been handed a suspended prison sentence and a £10,000 bill for fines and costs.
At Gloucester Crown Court on Friday (March 24), Garry Potticarry, 64, formerly of Pye Lane, Swindon, but now living in the Malaga area of Spain, was also banned from being a company director for four years.
The court heard that Potticarry was director of a company called Spectrum Energy Guard when he used 'misleading commercial practices' against an 80 year old diabetic Herefordshire man and an 86 year old woman from Chippenham, Wiltshire, who has subsequently died.
Potticarry admitted three charges of engaging in commercial practices which were either misleading or aggressive towards the Herefordshire pensioner, Christopher Russell, in October 2016 and April 2019.
The court heard that Mr Russell said he felt 'tired and worn down' by Potticary's tactics when he was selling him roof insulation and wall cladding work.
The charges Potticary admitted in respect of Mr Russell were:
* Engaging in a misleading commercial practice on 3rd April 2019 by telling Mr Russell that his home required a wall coating to protect the existing cavity wall insulation when in fact the proposed work was not necessary and his sales pitch had been false and untruthful.
* Engaging in a commercial practice which was aggressive on the same date by telling Mr Russell he would get a discount of £2,700 only if he waived his right to a cooling off period and agreed to having the works carried out within an unduly short period of time.
* Engaging in a misleading commercial practice on 17th October 2016 by telling Mr Russell that his home required spray foam loft insulation when in fact the proposed work was not necessary.
Prosecutor William Douglas-Jones, for Herefordshire Council, said: "The aggravating features here are that the offences took place in Mr Russell's home and also Mr Russell's vulnerability and age.
"Mr Russell says he feels he was impeded in his decision making at the time of these offences by being tired and he was worn down."
Potticarry was also prosecuted by Wiltshire County Council in respect of his dealings with Mrs Ruth Shaw, of Parkfields, Chippenham, who died in April 2022.
He had been convicted by Salisbury Magistrates in June 2022 of two offences of unfair trading with regard to her.
However, Potticarry did not accept the verdict and appealed against his conviction for the offences. His appeal was due to be heard by Gloucester Crown Court at the start of last Friday's (March 24) hearing but he abandoned the appeal at the last minute and the court went on to sentence him for those offences as well as the Herefordshire ones.
In addition, he admitted two offences of featuring trade association logs on his business documentation when his membership of the associations had expired.
The prosecution said that in 2017 Mrs Shaw paid £5,500 to the business then employing Pottocarry for insulation in her attic. Two years later, when she was 86 years old, Potticarry, now running his own company, phoned her claiming that the insulation needed inspecting in order or the warranty to remain valid.
This was not true. The following day, October 30, 2019, Potticarry arrived at her home for the inspection and told her that her roof timbers were unacceptably damp and needed a spray coating.
She agreed to pay him £2,800 for that work to be done.
The prosecution said the two sets of offences against Mrs Shaw and Mr Russell 'deliberately targeted vulnerable victims based on their age.'
At the start of Friday's hearing the judge, Recorder Richard Mawhinney, had given an indication to defence barrister Leslie Smith that the court would not impose an immediate jail term if Potticarry were to abandon his appeal and admit the charges.
In mitigation, Mr Smith said that in 2020 a friend had helped Potticarry, his wife of 23 years and their twin sons to move to Spain where one of the twins had won a scholarship to an English speaking grammar school.
The family had a terraced three bedroom house in a rural area of Spain and were paying school fees of £1,000 a month for the other son, said the barrister.
He told the court that Potticarry is now working for a company called My Solar House in Spain and does not do any cold calling on customers. He earns £4-5,000 a month.
Recorder Mawhinney sentenced Potticarry to 6 months jail suspended for 18 months and told him: "I don't regard you as a threat in future to the public."
He fined Potticarry a total of £5,605 and ordered him to pay compensation of £3,395 and costs of £1,000, making a total of £10,000. He ordered Potticarry to pay the total due at the rate of £1,000 a month. He said Potticarry would be jailed for three months if he defaults on payment.
Finally, the judge disqualified Potticarry from being a company director for four years and ordered him to pay a victim services surcharge of £122.
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