Four years in prison for Norfolk builder who carried out shoddy and potentially dangerous building work

07 March 2019

A judge has today (Wednesday 6 March) handed a sentence of four years in prison to a rogue Norfolk builder who was found guilty on two counts of fraudulent trading, and one count of money laundering, at Norwich Crown Court. Following the trial the judge commended Norfolk County Council Trading Standards for a thorough investigation.

John George Miller (46) of Three Mile Lane, Costessey, Norwich left eight families thousands of pounds out of pocket after carrying out work that was described in court as shoddy and potentially dangerous. John George Miller operated in the Norwich area through his companies HLD Construction Ltd and more recently as JGM Construction Services Ltd.

The court heard that John Miller ran his business in a manner which constituted fraudulent trading. He persisted in taking on contracts for building work and taking money from customers in the knowledge that he couldn’t complete the work properly or at all.

Cllr Margaret Dewsbury, Chairman of Norfolk County Council’s Communities Committee, said: “It was dreadful to hear that in one case a parent was left with a new born baby in a house with no heating or hot water in March for weeks. In all the cases the crimes led to a lot of stress, distress and considerable financial loss for people who were simply looking to make improvements to their homes.”

During the trial the court heard expert evidence from a chartered building surveyor who had found a long lists of faults with work carried out by John Miller at two properties. These faults included uneven and sloping floors, a front door that had been hung in a frame that was too large with gaps evident when the door was shut, and an undulating wall. On just those two properties the cost of remedial work was estimated at more than £14,000.

Other properties were left with unevenly spaced roof joists, leaking windows and a roof that had started to sag under its own weight. The total cost of finishing or putting right the work carried out by John Miller is estimated to be nearly £120,000.

Sophie Leney, Head of Norfolk County Council Trading Standards, said: “Mr Miller’s actions had a significant impact on the victims in this case, most of whom have had to pay out large sums of additional money to put things right. We take such matters very seriously, because of the harm caused to both consumers and the reputation of local businesses in the building trade. We would like to thank everyone who provided evidence to enable us to bring a successful prosecution.”

Norfolk County Council Trading Standards recommends that people should always use a Norfolk Trusted Trader or a trader who has been personally recommended to them by friends or family who have had similar work done. Consumers can find a Norfolk Trusted Trader by visiting www.norfolk.gov.uk/trustedtrader.

Anyone concerned about rogue builder activity should contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06.

Following sentencing, Judge Holt set out a timetable for financial investigation of any criminal benefit arising from this case (under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002) - the outcome of which will also inform any compensation for victims or costs due to the Council from the legal proceedings.

Mr Miller was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment on each count of fraudulent trading, and 18 months’ imprisonment on the single count of money laundering, to be served concurrently. He was also disqualified from being a company director for seven years and the Court made a Criminal Behaviour Order restricting his future conduct for seven years. Confiscation proceedings, under proceeds of crime legislation, will follow and will include claims for compensation for victims as well as for the costs of the investigation.

The trial concerned a total of nine building projects which were undertaken by John Miller with the common theme that he had quoted low prices in order to obtain work.

In addition to being found guilty on two counts of fraudulent trading, and one count of money laundering, John Miller was found not guilty in respect of one charge of fraudulent trading relating to a single job undertaken during 2013-2014.

Two further charges were brought under consumer protection regulations (one for ‘contravening professional diligence’ and one for aggressive commercial practices), relating to the same contracts. These were treated as alternative charges to one of the fraudulent trading charges. As he was found guilty of that charge (fraudulent trading) the jury were not required to return a verdict on the charges under the regulations.

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