Clueless builder turned Newton Abbot house into 'deathtrap'
A cowboy builder turned a couple’s home into a “deathtrap” which could have killed them.
William White, an accountant, gave good builders a bad name, a judge said.
White had charged Simon and Rachel Ballamy £49,000 to convert their home which they wanted to make bigger so they could start fostering children.
But the work done by White was so “shoddy” that the Ballamys ordered him off the site after seven months of chaos.
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The Ballamys then had to remortgage to spend another £40,000 getting the work made safe and put right – but now cannot afford to go ahead with their fostering plans.
White, 51, and his former partner, Jayne Thompson, 50, both escaped immediate jail terms yesterday when they were sentenced at Plymouth Crown Court.
Recorder Sean Levene told White, from Exeter, Devon: “You did not have a clue what you were doing.”
He said he was an accountant “meddling” in a building firm which he called a “grievous mistake and catastrophically wrong”.
The judge said it was this sort of conduct which gives builders a bad name and it was only luck that a disaster was averted.
He branded White a “cowboy” builder and said electric cables were left in a life-threatening condition.
“Effectively that property was left as a deathtrap.”
White and Thompson also admitted claiming VAT even though their Exeter-based company Eaglerock Associates Ltd was not VAT-registered but should have been with its annual turnover. The court heard they defrauded their clients with the VAT fiddle and pocketed the cash.
Despite branding the Ballamy’s bungalow in Newton Abbot, Devon, a deathtrap, the judge said that “no harm was caused to anybody, through your own bit of luck”.
White and Thompson, who manages a number of properties, will face paying sizeable financial compensation to the victims, plus £25,000 court costs and their own defence fees.
White admitted breaching professional diligence with the shoddy state of the electrical work and two counts of fraud relating to £6,500 ‘VAT’ fees.
He was jailed for nine months, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.
Thompson was jailed for six months, suspended for 12 months, and told to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work.
The “work” to convert the property began in February 2009 until they were ordered off the site in August that year.
The court heard one light switch turned on the light in a different part of the house, which the judge said was “funny when it happens in films”.
Wires were left sticking out of floors and there were problems elsewhere in the property to which the judge said: “It was dangerous, it was a deathtrap.”
White did not do the electrical work himself. He had charged the Ballamys £2,000 for it.
White’s defence lawyer, Ian Dixie, said his client was not “responsible for the electrical work”.
However, he accepted it was “thoroughly incompetent”.