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A Portsmouth rogue trader was sentenced this week to 75 hours of unpaid work, 10 rehabilitation days and now has a 5 year Criminal Behaviour Order [CBO], stopping him from cold-calling activities or approaching customers offering his services for building or maintenance works.

The sentence comes after Mr Paul Gaffney, aged 59 of Shelley Avenue, Portsmouth pleaded guilty to five offences relating to unprofessional behaviour and supplying fake tobacco products.

Cllr Dave Ashmore, Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Environment, said: “This case sends out the clear message to ‘rogue traders’ that this type of unlawful behaviour will not be tolerated here. Portsmouth City Council’s Trading Standards will continue to investigate and pursue those responsible for unfair commercial practice, bringing them before the courts where necessary. “

Mr Gaffney befriended a Portchester family and agreed to repair a large garden shed at a house in Castle Grove, Portchester in February 2021; however he failed to complete the work and left the shed at serious risk of collapse.

Mr Gaffney offered to repair the shed and make it watertight which resulted in him recklessly taking down half of the shed without supporting the rest of it to ensure it was safe for the family.

It was reported by the victims that Mr Gaffney disappeared off site, only to return with beams he had found in a nearby skip, which he then used to prop up the roof in an unsafe way before leaving for the day.

Once Mr Gaffney left the property the reality of the situation hit home for the victims.

Mr Gaffney had not arrived with any appropriate tools and materials and had left the site in a dangerous state without thinking about the safety of the victims’ children, who were home at the time due to national lockdown.

Mr Gaffney had also managed to convince the victims to pay out more money for new bifold doors and offered to supply ‘cheap cigarettes’. At the time, the victims paid £1,350, and were not given any paperwork or a notice of their right to cancel the contract.

The victims decided to find out more about Paul and it was then that they discovered Paul was Paul Gaffney, a convicted rogue trader who was previously sentenced in 2014 for defrauding victims of over £100,000.

The victims were able to confront Paul about what he had done and that they knew about his previous history of defrauding customers. As a result, the victims were able to get a full refund for the building works; a sum of £1,100.

Portsmouth City Council’s Trading Standards Service had the tobacco checked by the brand holder. It was confirmed that Paul Gaffney had supplied counterfeit Amber Leaf and Benson and Hedges Cigarettes contrary to the Trade Marks Act 1994.

Portsmouth City Council’s Trading Standards Service proceeded to prosecute Mr Gaffney with the intention of securing a Criminal Behaviour Order [CBO] upon conviction. The CBO which is now in place for a period of five years stops Mr Gaffney from cold calling activities to try to secure contracts for building and maintenance works. The CBO has been granted due to Mr Gaffney’s long history of defrauding customers and failure to give them written contracts and notices of their right to cancel the contract. The CBO is a powerful tool in limiting his illegal trading practices, which cause considerable distress to his victims.

Mr Gaffney, who also has used the alias Paul Reeves, can no longer give false names to customers that do contract with him. Doing so would also be a breach of the CBO, which could result in him returning to prison.

Members of the public who are approached by Mr Gaffney offering to do any building or maintenance work at their homes are strongly advised to report such incidences to Trading Standards.

How to protect yourself from rogue traders:

Do your research: If you’re getting work done at home, whether a small repair or a big renovation project, it’s really important to do your research before you take on a tradesperson or contractor to do the job. Check the company is registered and has the right insurance policies in place, get to know them before agreeing to any work, and always ask for references from previous customers.

Be wary of cold callers: If you are approached out of the blue by a tradesperson telling you something needs to be done to your home, be sure to do your own research and seek independent advice before agreeing to any work. You can also request an official no cold calling door sticker from trading standards to prevent traders knocking on your door. Contact trading.standards@portsmouthcc.gov.uk  or call 023 9283 4092 to get a sticker.

Shop around: Shopping around and getting several quotes for the job is also a really good way to understand what different companies are able to offer you. You can shop around for trusted traders that have been trading standards approved using the Buy with Confidence website www.buywithconfidence.gov.uk

Avoid cash payment: We strongly advise against using cash payments. Paying by cheque, credit card, bank transfer etc. creates a record of payment should something go wrong. Some payment methods such as credit/debit cards can also give you extra protection if something goes wrong, for example if the trader doesn’t complete the work already paid for. This can be a fast and cost-effective route to getting your money back, compared to lodging a claim in the county court.

Get help and advice if you need it: For all consumer related enquiries please contact the Citizens Advice consumer service 0808 223 1133. https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/get-more-help/if-you-need-more-help-about-a-consumer-issue/

If you do run into problems with unscrupulous traders, Portsmouth City Council’s trading standards team can help and to make sure businesses are complying with the law. Email trading.standards@portsmouthcc.gov.uk or call the City Helpdesk Trading Standard line on 023 9268 8183.