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Gloucestershire Business News

Contractor walks free after defrauding elderly couple

A Merseyside contractor who spent six months in custody awaiting sentence for defrauding an elderly Forest of Dean couple in a conservatory deal has walked free from court, because he has already served his 26-week jail term while on remand.

Benjamin Timmins, 33, of Kenneth Close, Prescot, pleaded guilty at Gloucester Crown Court to a charge that between August 23, 2017, and October 21, 2017, he engaged in a commercial practice that was a misleading by sending text messages which contained false information which was likely to deceive consumers in purchasing a conservatory.

He also admitted using a false instrument, namely a document on November 29, 2017, claiming it to be real, knowing that it had been doctored but persuading the couple to accept it was genuine.

Derek Perry, prosecuting, stated that if Timmins had honoured his numerous verbal offers to repay the victims he would have faced only one charge. He maintained his innocence throughout and was set to stand trial in January.

Judge Ian Lawrie KC said: "It's only taken three years and two months for Timmins to come to his senses! Even by the standards of slow justice, this delay is pretty remarkable."

Eugene Hickey, defending, said: "It is often said that when you are in a hole, it is time to stop digging. This is the position Timmins has found himself in. He has spent the past six months remanded in custody, which is equal, or close, to any sentence he might receive for these offences.

Judge Lawrie added: "That's exactly the phrase I used about Timmins about a year ago. He hasn't helped himself."

Mr Perry explained that in the summer of 2017, the elderly couple in Gloucestershire decided to have a new conservatory and engaged a builder to do the ground works. But when they found that he was lackadaisical about his work ethic they dispensed with his services.

Mr Perry added: "Timmins appeared on the scene and told the couple that he would take on the task on their behalf.

"Unfortunately, there was no official paperwork and no contract between Timmins and the couple.

"However, the couple transferred some funds to Timmins in advance, but it wasn't long before he stopped turning up on site, causing a huge delay. Timmins promised that things would be done by a certain date. But this date came and went on numerous occasions.

"The couple initially warmed to Timmins and became tolerant towards him. But they felt that matters were beginning to get out of hand and that his messages had become misleading in that he never kept to his promises.

"Timmins then requested a significant amount of money to purchase the conservatory structure itself from a manufacture in Hereford. He showed them documentation to this effect, but this was a forgery.

"But when the conservatory did not appear and Timmins had disappeared, the couple reported the incident to Gloucestershire County Council's trading standards, which has bought this prosecution to court.

"In total Timmins has defrauded the couple out of, £5,347. He has made lots of promises to this court to pay the money back, but he has chosen not to. He eventually completed the ground works but never delivered on the conservatory."

Mr Hickey said: "It's obvious Timmins clearly did not plead guilty at the earliest opportunity."

Judge Lawrie interjected: "This is one of the last pre-covid cases still on the court list at Gloucester. This case has been delayed so often, including that of the original trial, that it can only be de minimis (a legal term meaning too small to be meaningful or taken into consideration).

"He has strung this court along for such a long time he doesn't deserve anything more in the way of discount."

Mr Hickey added: "Timmins states he has been offered work immediately if he is released from prison today, taking into account of the time served. He could use this income to pay any compensation he is ordered to pay."

In sentencing Timmins, Judge Lawrie ordered that Timmins pay the couple the money he had defrauded them of, £5,347 and pay £2,500 towards prosecution costs, that was in excess of £15,000, and said: "Defendants who plead guilty on the day of their trial get a small discount off their sentence. However, in your case because it's been delayed by time and time again because you have been conducting a masterclass in delay, therefore a discount is not applicable.

"You are a dishonest individual and you will pay the price. You are sentenced to a custodial term of 26 weeks, but in view of the time you have spent on remand, this means you will be released from prison at some point today."

The judge also ordered, that as well as paying compensation and a contribution towards court costs, that Timmins pay a mandatory surcharge of £140.

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