A DISHONEST roofer whose questionable practices were exposed on a television programme about rogue traders has been spared jail for a string of offences involving five customers - and can continue trading.
Simon Fielding, 54, was aggressive with customers, and was said to have put pressure on them and ‘extorted’ cash, a court heard.
He went on the roof of the home of a Clitheroe man, who was in his 80s and frail, and threatened to remove slates to get him to hand over money and defrauded a retired accountant, Burnley Crown Court was told.
And he targeted people in Hyndburn and Pendle, charging £1,800 for work worth £500 on one occasion.
Speaking after the case, Coun Clare Pritchard, deputy leader of Hyndburn Council, said: “This is an awful thing to do to people who are often elderly and vulnerable.
“He’s an evil leech and we would urge people to be wary of these kinds of traders. People should only use recommended firms.”
Former soldier Fielding, who featured on the BBC's Rogue Traders show in 2010, advertised in the Yellow Pages that his firm, Ribble Valley Roofing, was a member of the Confederation of Roofing Contractors.
It wasn't, but several customers were misled into ringing him to get work done.
Speaking after the case, Lisa Howick, of the Confederation of Roofing Contractors, said Fielding was removed from its register in 2010 after failing to pay his membership fees.
She said he will still be free to seek roofing work, but will be banned from joining the CRC for life.
The court heard how some customers were not told about cooling off periods or cancellation rights.
The defendant, who has no roofing qualifications, also struck on bail.
The hearing was told in June 2011, the defendant stripped the dormer roof off a property in Great Harwood, without permission, to try and pressure occupier Victoria North into having work carried out.
Between October that year and February 2012, he wrongly told Susan Bowie he had employed a structural engineer who recommended that a £30,000 rebuild was necessary on her home in Baxenden.
He told Barnoldswick resident Alexander Gibb that £1,800 of work was needed on his roof, but a surveyor found it was only worth £500.
Fielding, formerly of Sunderland Street, Burnley, but more recently of Whalley Banks, Whalley, admitted a total of eight allegations - one of fraud, three of engaging as a trader in unfair commercial practices, three involving failure to give proper notice of cancellation rights and one regarding his false claim in the Yellow Pages advert.
The defendant, who has in the past been bankrupt, was given eight months in jail, suspended for two years and must pay £5,500 compensation and £5,000 costs.
Jacob Dyer, prosecuting for Lancashire Trading Standards, said another business of Fielding's had been a member of the Confederation of Roofing Contractors for a short time in 2010.
In 2011, the defendant, then trading as Ribble Valley Roofing, was not a member. He said: "Many of the customers in this case have seen his services advertised in the Yellow Pages. That's how they came to have work carried out by him and they relied upon the fact he was a member of the Confederation of Roofing Contractors."
Fielding was interviewed by Trading Standards in August 2011 and said he had not authorised the advert in the Yellow Pages.
He said he had no roofing qualifications, but had been a sole trader for 28 years.
He claimed he told one customer about his cancellation rights, but he waived them and told Mrs North as well, but she had wanted the work done straight away.
He said the suggestion he had stripped the dormer roof without asking was ‘ridiculous’.
Mark Stuart, for Fielding, said he had changed his practices. He was trying to do as little domestic work and as much commercial work as he could.
He had a back injury, would have to spend some time in traction but his employees could carry on the business.
Mr Stuart: "He is wholly aware people have lost out as a result of what he's done. He has pleaded guilty to these matters."
Sentencing, Judge Andrew Woolman said that with the exception of the fraud allegation, it was not the prosecution case that Fielding overcharged, or that work he did was not necessary or that work he did was shoddy.
He said: "The offences do show a pattern of being careless in proper contractual and trading arrangements, of being aggressive with customers and in one case fraudulently overcharging.
“You extorted cash which they might not have paid at that point."
Judge Woolman, who said Fielding 's back problem needed fairly immediate medical attention, added: "There is a folder of satisfied customers, which I have read."