Didcot plumber sentenced to three-and-a-half years imprisonment for fraud

A Didcot plumbing and heating engineer, who carried out dangerous and poor work and failed to finish jobs, has been found guilty of fraud, after a trial at Oxford Crown Court.  

The court action followed an investigation by Oxfordshire County Council’s trading standards team. Kenneth Belcher from Blewbury near Didcot also pleaded guilty to associated consumer protection offences. He was sentenced to three-and-a-half years imprisonment; and was disqualified from being a director of a company for eight years.

At the time of the offences during 2018 and 2019, Mr Belcher was trading as MBFI Plumbing Services, as well MBFI Plumbing and Heating Services. He was contracted to complete work for several customers, ranging from installing new bathrooms, wet rooms, plumbing work and erecting an extension. Prices for the work ranged from around £2,500 to nearly £28,000.

In some cases, Mr Belcher started the work and failed to complete it and where it was completed, it was to a poor standard and valued well below the price charged. On some occasions the work was assessed to have no value at all.

As a result, customers were left having unusable bathrooms and extensions and having to find large sums of money to complete the repairs to make safe and useable.

Mr Belcher was found guilty of committing offences under the Fraud Act 2006, for dishonestly making representations in relation to aspects of the work, such as the timeframe for completion, amount of money owed, the ability to do the work and how the price of materials and services were being calculated.

In relation to the associated consumer protection offences, he also pleaded guilty to failing to notify consumers of their cancellation rights, claiming to be able or qualified to work on gas appliances, failing to perform work to a competent standard and failing to complete work within a reasonable time, or at all.

This action comes after Mr Belcher was warned by trading standards for his behaviour on a previous occasion.

Councillor Neil Fawcett, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Services and Safety, said: “This case shows that trading standards will pursue those who take money from residents for poor or unfinished work, protecting both residents and the reputation of the vast majority of Oxfordshire traders who do the best for their customers.”

Jody Kerman, Oxfordshire County Council’s Head of Trading Standards, said: “We advise anybody who is looking for a reliable trader to always get a number of detailed quotes, check with friends and family for trusted recommendations and consider a trading standards approved trader, from our Buy With Confidence scheme.

Any Oxfordshire resident that has concerns about activity of this nature should report it to trading standards using the national consumer helpline 0808 223 1133.