News & Events
A recent prosecution case, in which our client’s custodial sentence was reduced to a suspended sentence order, highlights why it’s essential to seek legal advice at an early stage in any investigation by public bodies
Our specialist team recently defended a qualified electrician who had been charged by Trading Standards as the director of a limited company with four matters of Fraudulent Trading under s993 of the Companies Act and four breaches of the Consumer Protection Unfair Trading Regulations.
The Prosecution alleged that our client had operated their company in a misleading, fraudulent, and professionally irresponsible manner for their own gain. Our client was alleged to have defrauded three landlords by representing that they would produce Electrical Installation Condition Reports, taking money up front, and then failing to provide either the reports or a refund. It was also alleged that they misrepresented themselves as being accredited and registered under the “competent person scheme.”
We represented our client in the Magistrates’ Court and, on our advice on the legal facts, the client pleaded guilty to the matters, along with the company, which had also been charged with four matters under the Consumer Protection Unfair Trading Regulations.
Given the seriousness of the case, it was committed for sentence to the Crown Court; we litigated the proceedings at the Crown Court on our client’s behalf. We were able to advise upon – and draw out – the substantial points, which our client needed to present to the Crown Court in order to mitigate the offences and avoid imprisonment.
Throughout the process, we advised our client on all aspects of presenting their case and damage limitation. Our team was able to persuade the Crown Court that a suspended sentence order was suitable in our client’s circumstances; they received a custodial sentence of 12 months, suspended for 18 months, with the requirement to work with the probation service to complete unpaid work and rehabilitation days. The complainants are to be compensated. The company was also ordered to pay a financial penalty.
This is yet another example of why securing specialist legal advice early in an investigation by any public body is essential. In this case, our client was fortunate in avoiding what the Judge said would have been two years’ immediate custody.
The stark reality is that business owners often do not anticipate, or even consider, that regulatory matters are increasingly being prosecuted by different public bodies through the criminal courts where loss of liberty can be a real outcome.