Doorstep ban for conman

A cowboy builder who charged an elderly woman more than £1,800 for jobs he had failed to do was yesterday banned from door-to-door trading for five years in the first-ever case of its type in East Anglia.

A cowboy builder who charged an elderly woman more than £1,800 for jobs he had failed to do was yesterday banned from door-to-door trading for five years in the first-ever case of its type in East Anglia.

David Howarth, 39, was made the subject of a criminal anti-social behaviour order (crasbo) which prevents him from doorstep calling throughout England and Wales until 2011 - the first time that a rogue trader has been given a crasbo in the region and one of only a handful of such cases heard nationwide.

The sentence was imposed after magistrates heard that Howarth conned an elderly woman at Kessingland, near Lowestoft, out of a total of £1,895 for a number of building jobs that he claimed he had carried out on her home, including replacing guttering, pointing and repairing a garage roof. But following an investigation by Suffolk County Council trading standards, a chartered surveyor's examination of the building revealed none of the work had been done.

Trading-standards officers also discovered that another pensioner in Ipswich had paid Howarth £3,120 for work which a chartered surveyor concluded was of “no value” to the property.

At an earlier hearing at Lowestoft Magistrates' Court, Howarth, of Romany Way, Kessingland, pleaded guilty to four offences of charging for work and submitting bills knowing them to be false. He also admitted a further offence of not giving the pensioner written details of how a contract could be cancelled, despite calling unannounced at her home.

Following the conviction, trading-standards staff called on the court to make Howarth the subject of a crasbo, to stop him cold calling in the future.

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Howarth's legal team fought the order, claiming it would take away his livelihood, and the case was twice adjourned.

But yesterday at Lowestoft Magistrates' Court, after a further two hours of legal argument, trading standards won their battle.

Passing sentence, the chairman of the bench John Nichols, said: “I am satisfied that the test for making an crasbo has been met and is important to protect the public from more anti-social acts by you Howarth.

“A sentence of imprisonment for a breach of this order is important to stop you committing further anti-social acts, and to protect the public, particularly your vulnerable and elderly victims.”

The crasbo bans Howarth from door to door selling of any work or services, or instructing others to do so, whether on his behalf or on behalf of a company he is a shareholder, director or company secretary of.

He is also prevented from permitting his employees to be on a consumer's premises without his or her permission. If Howarth breaches the crasbo he could face a jail sentence.

Howarth was also made the subject of a two-year community order, including a supervision order and a general offending behaviour programme. But no fine or compensation was ordered because of Howarth's financial circumstances.

Last night, trading standards representatives said they were very pleased with the outcome.

Joanna Spicer, Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder for public protection said: “Today's case sends out a clear message to any doorstep traders who think they can make a living from ripping off vulnerable people - do it in Suffolk and you will be dealt with using the full extent of the law.”

However, it is not the last the builder has seen of the court. On July 25 he will be back before Lowestoft magistrates for failing to pay fines of £480.