So, Michael Leslie McQuade, 49, of Robartes Place, St Austell pleaded guilty last Friday (23/02/2018) at Truro Crown Court, to one offence under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.
In May 2014 McQuade began work at the property of a 67-year-old female. The victim was considered vulnerable due to a range of complex health issues and was finding it difficult to cope living alone. Support provided by Social Services had earlier identified that work was needed to improve the conditions in her property, so she could remain living there independently.
The victim agreed for McQuade to carry out these extensive works to clear and clean up the property, making it suitable for habitation. McQuade worked on the property up until December 2015. During his time there, he carried out other services for the victim, such as taking her to the shops, looking after her dogs and carrying out small errands. Despite knowing that the victim had little available money, Mr McQuade did not provide any suitable indication of the costs of the work he was undertaking, which were building up at a considerable rate.
Unfortunately, the victim had mistakenly believed that a friendship had developed between herself and McQuade during this time. McQuade would visit her in hospital when she was ill but failed to make it clear that he was, in fact, charging for these visits.
When presented with the final bill, the victim was shocked at the amount and was unable to pay. The victim owned a field adjacent to her property; and after discussions as to how she could make the payment, an arrangement was reached whereby the victim would sign over ownership of the field in lieu of the money owed.
When the victim began to question whether she should agree to the transfer of the field, McQuade’s attitude to the victim changed quickly; prompting her to report concerns to Devon and Cornwall Police. The case was later passed to Cornwall Council’s Trading Standards Team for further investigation.
Referring to McQuade’s behaviour in this case, HH Judge Carr stated: “It is an appalling way to treat another human being.” McQuade received a 4-month custodial sentence, suspended for 18 months and was ordered to pay £5000 towards prosecution costs.
Leanne McLean, Lead Officer for Doorstep Crime said: “This was a difficult case, and McQuade’s conduct created considerable worry to a vulnerable individual. Whilst we accept that McQuade did not set out to take advantage of the victim, he ultimately saw an opportunity to profit from the circumstances. Not only did he fail in his legal duties under the Consumer Protection Regulations, but he also betrayed the trust of an individual who was extremely lonely and desperate for human interaction. He saw her as a soft touch and decided to exploit the situation for his own ends.”
Nigel Strick, Fair Trading Manager added: “We are very pleased with the sentence passed today by Judge Carr. It reflects the seriousness of the matter and sends a clear warning to those who seek to take advantage of vulnerable consumers that they will be caught and brought to justice.”
Sue James, Councillor for Neighbourhoods and Public Protection said: “Once again out Trading Standards Team has been successful in bringing a criminal to justice. The case shows the great work we can do when working in partnership with Devon and Cornwall Police and with our own Adult Social Care Team to protect the most vulnerable in our society.”