Case No: B20LU085
In The Luton County Court
11 February 2016
HH Judge Lindsay Davies
Bedford Borough Council – Claimant
Express Plumbing Ltd
Mohammed Shamrez – Defendants
- This is an application by Bedford Borough Council for committal of the defendants for breach of the Enforcement Order made by His Honour Judge Kay QC on 30 October 2013. That order was made under s 215 of the Enterprise Act 2002. The complaints that led to the making of that order included complaints that the defendants had engaged in conduct which constitutes an infringement of consumer legislation, that there has been harm to the collective interests of consumers and that appropriate consultation had failed to bring about cessation of that conduct.
- BBC say that since the Enforcement Order was made the Defendants conduct has continued in the same way. Trading Standards Department have received 42 further complaints about the way the Defendants conduct their plumbing business. I am told that Mr Shamrez and the Company have featured on various Consumer Complaint programmes in the media. The complaints began within six weeks of the Enforcement Order and have continued until January 2016. BBC consider that the complainants have paid about £34000 to the Defendants for work that was in breach of the Enforcement Order. BBC say that in general terms the Defendants deliberately prolonged work to increase the chargeable hours, they overstated the time they took, they failed to notify customers that Vat would be charged, they took payments from credit cards without authority, and they significantly overcharged for services and products supplied.
- The case was originally listed for hearing in August 2015 but the Defendants failed to attend. It was relisted in September 2015 but again the Defendants failed to attend, Mr Shamrez saying he had gone to the wrong court. The Defendants had failed to file any documents nor had they complied with any directions. Mr Shamrez attended Luton County Court on 10 February 2016 seeking to adjourn the final hearing as he had parted company with a solicitor in January 2016. I adjourned the case for 24 hours to enable him to instruct another solicitor which he did. He has been represented today.
- The defendant has today admitted all the breaches. I heard mitigation on his behalf.
- I found that on his admissions and on the unchallenged evidence that the Claimant had satisfied me to the criminal standard that the breaches were proved.
- I found that the Defendants had deliberately breached the enforcement order knowing the terms. I found Mr Shamrez to have a high degree of culpability as the sole director of the Company. He also was the plumber carrying out much of the work. The level of financial loss to the customers was not high on an individual basis, mostly under £1000 but collectively the loss exceeds £30000. The customers were also caused stress by the Defendants’ actions. Mr Shamrez has shown some remorse today, very late on in the proceedings. He has made no recompense to any of the customers. He has today accepted that he should cease trading and informed the court that he has put in steps to wind up the company, close the business and get rid of his plumbing tools.
- I take into account that he is a man of good character, save for these proceedings. He has four children, one of whom has disabilities. He says he looks after the children with the help of his extended family. On his behalf it is said that he realises that the business must close and he will have to find work elsewhere. He acknowledges he has “brought disaster on himself and his reputation”. He has no assets and owes money including to HMRC.
- I have concluded that the level of culpability and the duration of the breaches caused this case to cross the custody threshold. I impose a sentence of six months imprisonment. As this is the first time that the Defendant has faced a prison sentence I am prepared to suspend the sentence on condition that he complies with the new Enforcement Order that I make. Mr Shamrez must understand that if there are any further breaches of the new Enforcement Order the case will be brought back to court. If the further breaches are proved he must expect to serve the six months imprisonment imposed today plus whatever sentence is imposed for the further breach.
Her Honour Judge Lindsay Davies
11 February 2016