A Salisbury man has been jailed for two-and-a-half years for falsely claiming to be qualified to carry out work on gas appliances at a string of properties in Wiltshire.
Plumber Simon Dale was jointly prosecuted by The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Wiltshire Council’s trading standards after his deception came to light.
Salisbury Crown Court heard on Friday (28 September) that Mr Dale, aged 39, was registered as a plumber under the CORGI scheme, now the Gas Safe Register, but not as a gas engineer.
A HSE investigation found that working under the company name Cathedral Plumbing Services, he carried out work on combination gas central heating and water boilers at six properties across the county between November 2007 and October 2009. He was not registered to do that work.
During Wiltshire Council Trading Standards’ investigations, Mr Dale, who also traded under the company name Wiltshire Plumbing & Heating Ltd, was found to have misled customers on 13 occasions between October 2007 and December 2010 regarding his professional accreditation.
Whilst quoting for boiler installations he committed fraud by making verbal statements to customers claiming to be CORGI registered or qualified to do gas work. He used official logos on paperwork and his work van giving the impression that he was approved by CORGI and the Oil Firing Technical Association (OFTEC).
On one occasion he claimed to be Part P qualified to undertake and self-certify electrical work. On all of these occasions he was not appropriately qualified or registered to undertake the work and never had been.
Speaking after the prosecution, HSE Inspector Andy Shaw, said:
“Carrying out work on gas installations without being a member of the approved registration body, which is now the Gas Safe Register, is both dangerous and illegal.
“The law is there to ensure work is carried out safely to minimise any risk of death or serious injury resulting from gas or fume leaks or explosions.
“Members of the public should check that gas fitters are members of the industry body before any work is started. Do not be afraid to challenge your gas engineer and phone the Gas Safe Register to check they are in fact registered – you could be putting your life at risk if you don’t.
“This is a classic case of an unqualified tradesman carrying out illegal gas work and making fraudulent claims about his accreditation. We are pleased to have worked together with Wiltshire Council’s trading standards to reveal Mr Dale’s failings and illegal practices.”
Wiltshire Council cabinet member for public health and public protection services, Keith Humphries said:
“I’m pleased with the outcome as this has been a very long running and complex case. It sends a clear message that this type of fraud is simply not acceptable, and this case, could have put lives at risk.
“I hope this does not deter customers from getting their gas appliances serviced as there are many honest and qualified tradesmen in Wiltshire doing a fantastic job.”
Mr Dale, of Walworth Road, Andover, Hampshire (latest Court listing), pleaded guilty to six offences under section 33(1)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 for breaching Regulation 3(1) of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998.
He also pleaded guilty to 10 offences of fraud by misrepresentation, breaching Section 2 of the Fraud Act 2006, and a further three breaches of Regulation 12 and Schedule 1 Paragraph 4 of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, for engaging in unfair commercial practice.
He was sentenced to serve eighteen months in prison for eight of the fraud offences and a further twelve months for the gas safety and unfair trading offences, to run concurrently. For the two additional fraud offences, that he committed whilst on bail for the other offences, he was sentenced to a further twelve months to run consecutively. This comes to 30 months in total. No prosecution costs were awarded.
Paul Johnston, chief executive of Gas Safe Register, added:
“We work closely with the HSE to investigate unregistered gas fitters. All gas engineers have to be Gas Safe registered by law.
“Before allowing them to begin any work in your home you should always ask for their ID card. Unqualified gas engineers are more common than you think, so make sure you check they are legally registered.”
You can check if an engineer is registered at www.gassaferegister.co.uk or by calling 0800 408 5500.