Illegal gas fitter risked lives in Crewe

A Nantwich man has been ordered to carry out 300 hours of community service after he put lives at risk by illegally carrying out gas work at three homes in Crewe.

Duncan Johnstone, 52, was today (19 April 2013) prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after he carried out work while pretending to be a registered gas fitter, and left gas pipes at one house in a condition classified as ‘immediately dangerous’.

Crewe Magistrates’ Court heard he failed to cap off the gas pipes at the house on Walthall Street after removing two gas fires in October 2010. This meant gas could be released if a valve was left open.

The court was told Mr Johnstone had also installed gas central heating at houses on Myrtle Street and Alton Street, despite not being a registered gas fitter. He returned to all three properties on several occasions between 2007 and 2011 to carry out repairs.

When an investigator from Gas Safe Register, the official list of registered gas engineers, visited two of the houses he found defects with Mr Johnstone’s work which were putting lives at risk.

An HSE investigation found Mr Johnstone had also carried out annual gas safety checks at the three houses, even though he was not registered to do this.

He used two fake Gas Safe Register ID numbers when completing the formal documents on the checks, giving the impression they met strict legal requirements.

Duncan Johnstone, of Moorfields in Willaston, was ordered to carry out 300 hours of community service, and received a suspended six-month prison sentence. He was also told to pay full prosecution costs of £2,702 after pleading guilty to multiple breaches of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Deborah Walker said:

“Duncan Johnstone carried out illegal and unsafe gas work over a period of nearly eight years and is lucky no one was seriously harmed as a result.

“The gas fittings at one of the properties were found to be in an immediately dangerous condition and I dread to think what the consequences could have been if this hadn’t been identified.

“Gas work has the potential to cost lives if it is not carried out by registered gas fitters. We will therefore continue to prosecute anyone who ignores the law.”

Russell Kramer, Chief Executive of Gas Safe Register, commented:

“A quarter of a million illegal gas jobs are carried out every year by people who don’t have the skills or the qualifications to work safely with gas. One in five of the illegal gas jobs we investigate are found to be immediately dangerous, as was the case in this instance.

“This means that the work could lead to a gas leak, fire, explosion or carbon monoxide poisoning. It is therefore vital that people always make sure they only use a registered gas engineer.

“Every Gas Safe registered engineer carries a Gas Safe ID card, which shows who they are and the type of gas work they are qualified to do. You can check if your engineer is legal and safe by asking for the card and if you have any concerns, contact us by calling 0800 408 5500 or visit our website link to external website.”