Builder’s botched work on kitchen extension put lives in danger

Rogue builder in court

Rogue builder in court - Credit: PA

A “greedy” builder who cut corners and fitted a dangerous gas boiler and wiring at the home of a Suffolk family has walked free from court after a judge decided not to send him straight to prison.

Peter and Josephine French, of Charles Tye, near Ringshall, paid David Liptrott £35,000 to extend their kitchen and replace a boiler but were forced to pay out a further £27,000 to have his botched work put right, Ipswich Crown Court heard.

An expert who examined a boiler installed by Liptrott found it was “immediately dangerous” because it was leaking gas and ordered it to be shut down, said James Hodivala, prosecuting.

“As far as the electrical wiring to the boiler was concerned, the earth wasn’t connected to the boiler which meant the casing could become live,” he said.

Defects were also found to electrical work including the kitchen lighting circuit not being earthed and joins in the wiring covered in black tape.

“The defects were of a serious nature and could have resulted in someone suffering a potentially fatal electric shock,” said Mr Hodivala.

Liptrott, 44, of Green Lane, Earl Stonham, admitted two offences of failing to discharge a duty under Health and Safety at Work regulations in relation to the installation of a gas boiler and electrical wiring and an offence of engaging in a misleading commercial practice.

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The offences are alleged to have taken place between March and August 2013.

Liptrott was given a nine-month prison sentence, suspended for 15 months, and ordered to pay £16,000 costs.

He was also ordered to pay £27,490 compensation to Mr and Mrs French within 12 months, with a 15-month prison sentence in default.

Sentencing him, Judge Rupert Overbury described Liptrott as “greedy” and said he had taken risks to maximise profits.

“It was a deliberate breach of the law rather than carelessness,” he said. “You were an experienced builder who would have known the risks in carrying out defective work especially with the gas supply.”

Mr Hodivala said Liptrott had given Mr and Mrs French the impression his company, DPB Building, was a limited company when it had been dissolved in December 2012.

He said Liptrott undertook work on the boiler even though he was not registered with the Gas Safe Register.

The work at Mr & Mrs French’s home started on March 18, 2013 but when they returned from holiday in July 2013 the work wasn’t finished and the boiler hadn’t been signed off.

When Mr French contacted Liptrott he sent back an email saying he wasn’t coming back to complete the work.

In an impact statement Mr French, who has two children, described what had happened as a “nightmare” and said his family had been without heating, water and cooking facilities and had been put at risk as a result of Liptrott’s shoddy and dangerous workmanship.

Charles Falk, for Liptrott, accepted the risk of injury to the French family had been significant but said Liptrott hadn’t received any previous complaints about his workmanship.

He said Liptrott had suffered from anxiety and depression and his weight had ballooned to 28 stones. He hadn’t been able to work since the offences and was being evicted from his house later this month because of mortgage arrears.

After the case, HSE Inspector Anthony Brookes said: “People can die as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning and gas explosions. It is therefore vital that only registered gas engineers, who are trained and competent, work on gas appliances and fittings.”

Councillor Colin Spence, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for public protection, said Liptrott put the lives of the family at risk by carrying out his illegal work.

He added: “I would encourage anyone needing work carried out on their property to go to www.checka, the online directory of local tradesmen.

“All these traders have been checked by Suffolk County Council Trading Standards. I would also urge anyone that has had work carried out by David Liptrott to contact an engineer to have the work inspected, and ensure that their property and family are safe.”

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