Builder who took £1,500 from woman for work he never started walks away from court unpunished

File photo. Builder Stuart Otter, from Lowestoft, appeared at Norwich Magistrates' Court. Picture:

File photo. Builder Stuart Otter, from Lowestoft, appeared at Norwich Magistrates' Court. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A builder who took nearly £1,500 from a woman for work he failed to start has avoided punishment, after telling magistrates he had to pay off mounting debt.

In December 2017, Stuart Otter, 40, of Moyes Road, Lowestoft, was paid £1,475 from a woman in Norwich as an advance to pay for materials to renovate her bathroom, Norwich Magistrates' Court heard on Tuesday.

Prosecutor Tess Mann said he had bought some materials for £336 but failed to carry out the work, adding: 'Messages from the victim revealed he continually promised to carry out the work.'

He told the victim that the work could not be carried out because the materials has been stolen, but Mrs Mann said there was no record of report to police about the stolen items.

She said: 'He agreed to pay the full amount of over £1,000 and was given a four week extension at his own request.'

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But the money had not been repaid by May 2018 and so as a consequence he has appeared in court, Mrs Mann added.

Otter, who represented himself at magistrates' court, pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation.

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Addressing the magistrates, Otter said he was off work for 15 months because of his bad back which led to mounting debt.

He said he had 'bailiffs at the door' and had to prioritise paying off the debt, which he has managed to do while finding another job.

On the debt he owes to the victim, he said: 'I need to desperately pay this off, I want to sleep.

'This has been a living hell for me.'

He suggested paying back the victim £200 a month until he has paid her the money she is owed in full.

Chairman of the bench Graham Gerrish agreed with this offer to act as compensation for the victim, adding: 'We are quite happy for that to happen.'

Mr Gerrish said Otter showed remorse in court and so let him walk away with a conditional discharge for the offence, which will last for 12 months.

Otter was also ordered to pay £85 court costs and £20 victim surcharge.

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