A former landscape gardener is in dire financial straits with £12,000 in debt and no savings after landing in court over unfinished work. Gareth Thorp said he quit the job because he was hospitalized with diabetes.
Caerphilly Council launched an investigation into the 50-year-old after receiving a complaint from Gareth Bond, a 77-year-old client of Thorp’s. While walking near his Machen home one day in 2019, Mr Bond saw Thorp working on another property and struck up a conversation, mentioning that he needed work on some rotting wood in his back garden , Cardiff Crown Court heard on Tuesday.
Prosecutor Tom Stanway said: “A few days later, the defendant provided a quote. They discussed work which would start in about three weeks, and the defendant said he would beat any other quote provided to Mr. Bond. No written documentation has been provided and essential information, including cancellation rights, has not been provided.”
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Mr Bond paid £8,000 for Thorp to remove timbers, replace sleepers and install steps to a summer house. “There are minimum requirements for the assignment of a business address, and that information was not given when the contract was entered into,” Stanway said.
Thorp carried out work on the garden in June 2019, but it was only half finished when he stopped coming to the site. Mr Bond complained in September to Caerphilly Council, which brought criminal proceedings against Thorp. Mr Stanway said there was “a degree of vulnerability” for the elderly client.
The prosecutor added that flaws in the work meant Mr Bond was then hit with a £12,000 quote to rectify it. Although Mr Bond did not have a business address for Thorp, he was eventually able to file a civil action which resulted in the defendant being ordered to pay him £12,000.
In the criminal case, Thorp admitted to breaching trade regulations by misleading omission of details. The former gardener, from Commercial Street in Ystrad Mynach, has a previous drunk driving conviction.
Mitigating Scott Bowen said the “gist” of Thorp’s work for Mr Bond was “satisfying” even if some parts were “not particularly polished”. He added: “About 40% of the work was completed when he became seriously ill and that is why it was not completed. The defendant was hospitalized with previously undiagnosed diabetes. As of 2019, his health has deteriorated and he now has difficulty walking. He has had to re-mortgage his property, has used up all his savings and is now on state benefits. He agrees that rather than deal with Mr Bond, he focused on his health at that time.
The court heard Thorp was struggling to meet his £200 monthly payments to Mr Bond. Highlighting Thorp’s lightweight record and the time that has passed since the breach of trading regulations, Mr Bowen called for parole. He added: “This is a technical infraction rather than dishonesty.”
Delivering his sentence, Judge Recorder Matthew Porter-Bryant said: “The landscaping work was in some respects flawed and only 40% complete. This is a technical infraction but it is a very demanding requirement. imposed on merchants to ensure that consumers have adequate protection to ensure that they are able to seek redress in the event of a problem.
“I take into account that Mr Bond has already obtained a remedy against you. It would be somewhat ironic if I imposed a financial penalty which would mean that you were unable to enforce the judgment that Mr Bond has obtained against you.”
Recorder Porter-Bryant said he would not impose a fine or prosecution costs because he wanted Thorp to have the best chance of meeting his payment obligations. He imposed a two-year parole and a mandatory £20 victim services surcharge. You can read more court stories here or subscribe to our Crimes and Punishments newsletter here.