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Rogue trader ordered to pay compensation to elderly victims

A Chippenham builder has been found guilty of two breaches of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

Published 8 September 2023

A Chippenham builder has been found guilty of two breaches of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, following an investigation by officers from Wiltshire Council's Trading Standards team.

John Sykes, 30, of Easton Lane, Chippenham was found guilty on Monday 4 September at Salisbury Magistrates Court.

Mr Sykes was sentenced in absentia after he refused to leave his prison cell, where he is serving 15 months for dangerous driving, to attend the hearing. He was found guilty of giving a misleading representation that all work was guaranteed and insured and not carrying out the work to the standard expected of a professional trader.  He has been ordered to pay £1,000 in compensation to the couple. This must be paid within three years or he will be brought back to court.

The conviction relates to fencing work that Sykes had completed at the home of an elderly couple in September 2021.  The elderly couple from Chippenham had agreed to pay £2,250 for the work, after seeing a business card which stated that all work was "guaranteed and insured". 

After the works had been completed, the couple noticed that the fence wasn't straight and in fact, angled out towards the pedestrian footpath. It was also not very sturdy and had gaps between the boards.

When Sykes was contacted again and asked to look at the work, he assured the couple that the fence would be repaired in the next few weeks.  After he failed to return to the property, the couple contacted him again, whereby he demanded £500 to put the work right. This extra payment was refused by the couple.

In February 2022, during Storm Eunice, a large section of the fence blew down and it became apparent that the fence posts had only been put 15cm into the ground and that insufficient concrete had been used to secure them.  Sykes once again promised to carry out the necessary repair work but did not return.

Wiltshire Trading Standards officers were contacted in March 2022, and when Sykes was interviewed, he agreed he would pay the couple £500 towards the cost of repairs. After being given several opportunities to pay, the money was not forthcoming.

Cllr Nick Holder, Cabinet Member for Public Protection said; Rogue builders aren't always easy to spot and can dupe homeowners with misleading claims on websites or business cards such as Mr Sykes has. They are known to grossly overcharge and then cause further misery by carrying out incomplete work or work that is to an unacceptable standard.

A key priority and responsibility in our business plan is to safeguard our residents from harm. We promote traders that we know to be safe, compliant and successful as great examples and would advise residents to use an approval scheme such as Buy With Confidence (opens new window) when they are looking for businesses to carry out work.

We would also advise residents to be cautious when undertaking large projects; ask for written quotes and ensure you are provided with full details in writing including the trader's name, address and the total price before any work takes place. Seeking independent references for the business can also help to allay any concerns.

 If anyone believes they have been the victim of a rogue trader, they should call Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133.


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