Paul Gaffney (61) was jailed for five years at Portsmouth Crown Court, on 28 March, following an investigation by Portsmouth City Council’s Trading Standards service into eight counts of fraud and breach of a Criminal Behaviour Order.

The sentence comes after Gaffney targeted three households in the Fareham area to carry out building and property maintenance but completed little or no work, defrauding his victims of over £67,000 to fund his lifestyle and gambling habit.

In 2021, two Portchester victims, aged 68 and 78, used pension savings and sold their motorhome when they were conned out of £62,785 for unnecessary works and medical appointments.

Gaffney convinced his elderly victims that he had a background in large building projects and could open their downstairs space, replace the kitchen, and build a conservatory. While waiting for the kitchen to be delivered, a kitchen that Gaffney never ordered, the rogue trader made false claims of other work that was needed, including issues with the damp proof course, flat roof, chimney, and mains water pipe.  An independent surveyor confirmed little work was completed.

Cruelly, Gaffney conned them out of an additional £2,300 after he heard that one of the victims had suspected cancer and convinced them that he could arrange for fast-track diagnostic scans at a private hospital and impersonated the surgeon’s secretary in a phone call in which he withheld his phone number.

Thankfully, the victims’ bank was able to refund some of the losses as most of the £62,785 was paid in bank transfers, excluding about £3,500 of the early transactions that were made in cash.

In 2020, another elderly victim in Portchester was conned into paying Gaffney for work that was never completed, including flashing to a chimney and kitchen extension, and to renew the kitchen floor.

Another victim paid Gaffney £180 for replacement fence panels in 2021, however after months of them not materialising, in November 2021 the victim got a refund after threatening to contact police. Although, following a storm in February 2022, Gaffney returned to the Fareham home and pleaded for a second chance; the homeowner agreed and handed over £300 for the fences and a step to be installed and the rogue trader never returned to complete the work.

This isn’t the first encounter Portsmouth City Council has had with Gaffney, as a serial rogue trader:

  • In 2014, following a joint investigation between Portsmouth Trading Standards service and Hampshire Constabulary, Gaffney was sentenced to nine years’ sentence for over £105,000 fraud against 18 victims and successful confiscation proceedings secured compensation for the homeowners.
  • In 2022, a Portsmouth Trading Standards investigation resulted in the 75-hours Community Order and a Criminal Behaviour Order of five years, which he subsequently breached and has now been sentenced for.

After his current five-year prison sentence, Gaffney will have a 10-year criminal behaviour order prohibiting him from offering his own or others’ services for building work.

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 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 – Getting several quotes for job is a good way to understand what different companies can 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 – 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. We strongly advise against payment by cash.

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 have 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.