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Suspended prison sentence for building company director who carried out unnecessary work and put employees at risk

16 October 2018

The director of a building company that carried out unnecessary building repairs and put employees at risk when it did so has been given a suspended prison sentence, banned from being a director, ordered to carry out 250 hours of unpaid work and told to pay comensation to customers he defrauded and contribute to his prosecution costs.

Barrie John Henry Birch was the sole director in charge of BBS Improvements Ltd, which was also sentenced as a company after a joint investigation by Worcestershire Trading Standards Service and the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) had uncovered a string of health & safety and fraud offences.

Worcester Crown Court heard how Birch, operating as BBS Improvements Ltd, was employed to carry out repairs to a roof on a domestic property in Redditch in May 2017. Birch said the roof needed replacing. A complaint was made to Trading Standards who instructed an expert to examine the roof. The expert confirmed that the work was wholly unnecessary and had no value whatsoever. During the course of the investigations, Trading Standards also uncovered potential health & safety issues.

HSE inspectors found that the company was carrying out work at height without scaffolding and that there were no measures in place to prevent employees from falling. Birch was present and fully aware of the people working unsafely on the roof.

Birch admitted an offence under the Fraud Act 2006 and an offence under the Consumer Protection from unfair Trading Regulations 2008 in relation to unnecessary work carried out at a property in Bromsgrove during June 2016. He also pleaded guilty to breaching Section 37 of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and asked for five other similar matters to be taken into consideration, including two offences of failing to provide the 10 Year Insurance Backed Guarantee.

For the Trading Standards offences and the HSE offences, Birch was sentenced to 18 months in prison, suspended for two years, ordered to carry out 250 hours of unpaid work and was disqualified from being a company director for five years. He was ordered to pay compensation to the victims and to make a contribution to the prosecution costs.

BBS Improvements Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 6 (3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and the company was fined £200.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Matthew Whitaker said: “This prosecution demonstrates how the HSE works in partnership with other enforcers like Trading Standards to tackle serious crime and dangerous working practices, which put people at risk of death and serious injury.

“Falls from height remain one of the most common causes of work related fatalities in this country and the risks associated with working at height are well known.

“In this case, suitable measures such as scaffolding should have been provided to ensure the health & safety of people working at height on the roof.

Cllr Lucy Hodgson for Trading Standards said: “This type of fraudulent activity will not be tolerated in Worcestershire. Our Trading Standards Officers actively investigate criminal complaints of rogue builders such as this and will continue to do so to protect the public.

“The sentence handed down in this case clearly shows that the Courts view this type of offending very seriously.”

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