Two men who operated a Harrogate-based plumbing firm have been handed suspended prison terms for falsely claiming to be Gas Safe registered engineers and leaving one local family in “immediate danger”.
The men, sole employees and directors of PH Plumbing and Heating Engineers Ltd, were found out when two householders complained separately to Gas Safe after having problems with work done at their homes. Both householders had been told by the firm that they were Gas Safe registered and one was given a business card with the Register’s logo on.
Both the defendants pleaded guilty to a number of breaches of the Gas Safety Regulations before Harrogate Magistrates’ Court last month and were back in court for sentencing today (13 Jan).
The court heard that Steven Paffett and Ben Leeming were reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) by Gas Safe when the first offence came to light after they installed a condensing boiler at a house in Strensall, near York, on 3 February 2010.
HSE Inspector Kate Dixon, who investigated, told the court that a short while after PH Plumbing fitted the boiler, the householder called in a registered gas engineer from a different firm to do a separate job. But when he saw the boiler, the engineer deemed it to be immediately dangerous and disconnected it.
Numerous faults included an unsealed internal flue that could have led to the gases and water produced leaking throughout the house. Incorrectly-sized pipes were found to be reducing the gas being supplied to the appliance.
When the householder contacted Mr Paffett to carry out remedial work, the firm didn’t respond, despite being paid £1,600 for the work.
After getting a complaint, Gas Safe called on HSE to investigate and Prohibition Notices were served on both Mr Paffett and Mr Leeming in August 2010, stopping them from carrying out further gas work until they were competent and registered to do so. In the meantime, the Strensall homeowner had to spend a further £2,000 for the work to be done properly.
In November 2010, a Harrogate resident contacted PH Plumbing after his boiler began to leak water. Mr Paffett inspected it and recommended a new boiler, quoting £1,650 for the work. After Mr Leeming did the work – in breach of the Prohibition Notice – faults became apparent and the householder contacted Gas Safe. Their inspection found the work below current standards and HSE was asked again to investigate.
Steven Paffett, of St James Meadow, Boroughbridge, York, who had admitted three breaches of the Gas Safety Regulations, was sentenced to a total of six months’ imprisonment suspended for 12 months. Ben Leeming, of Frances Street, York, who’d pleaded guilty to three breaches of the Regulations and one offence of contravening a Prohibition Notice, was also given six months jail suspended for 12 months. In addition, each defendant was given 150 community service.
Inspector Kate Dixon said:
These two men pretended to be Gas Safe registered and put profit before safety – deliberately deceiving these two householders and putting at least one young family at risk.
Some of the faults were quite basic and clearly demonstrated a lack of competence as well as care. In one case, they were also very serious and could have endangered people’s lives.
HSE would urge homeowners to be on their guard and make sure that all gas engineers are registered and safe to work in their home. With the onset of winter, demand for heating repairs and maintenance increases so members of the public should be extra vigilant in checking these details. HSE will continue to take enforcement action against illegal gas work.
Paul Johnston, chief executive of Gas Safe Register said:
Every Gas Safe registered engineer has an ID card which not only shows who they are but also the areas they are qualified to work in. We always encourage people to ask to see the card and check the details either by calling us on 0800 408 5500 or looking on our website at www.gassaferegister.co.uk before allowing anyone to carry out gas work in their home.