Sentence for pair who left family in danger

Two men who operated a Harrogate-based plumbing firm have been handed suspended prison terms for falsely claiming to be Gas Safe registered engineers and leaving one local family in “immediate danger”.

The men, sole employees and directors of PH Plumbing and Heating Engineers Ltd, were found out when two householders complained separately to Gas Safe after having problems with work done at their homes.

Both householders had been told by the firm that they were Gas Safe registered and one was given a business card with the register’s logo on.

The defendants both pleaded guilty to a number of breaches of the Gas Safety Regulations before Harrogate Magistrates’ Court last month and were back in court for sentencing last Friday, January 13.

The court heard that Steven Paffett and Ben Leeming were reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) by Gas Safe when the first offence came to light after they installed a condensing boiler at a house in Strensall, near York, on February 3, 2010.

HSE inspector Kate Dixon, who investigated the complaint, told the court that a short while after PH Plumbing fitted the boiler, the householder called in a registered gas engineer from a different firm to do a separate job.

But when he saw the boiler, the engineer deemed it to be immediately dangerous and disconnected it.

Numerous faults included an unsealed internal flue that could have led to the gases and water produced leaking throughout the house. Incorrectly-sized pipes were found to be reducing the gas being supplied to the appliance.

When the householder contacted Paffett to carry out remedial work, the firm didn’t respond, despite being paid £1,600 for the work.

After getting a complaint, Gas Safe asked the HSE to investigate and prohibition notices were served on both Paffett and Leeming in August 2010, stopping them from carrying out further gas work until they were competent and registered to do so. In the meantime, the Strensall homeowner had to spend a further £2,000 for the work to be done properly.

In November 2010, a Harrogate resident contacted PH Plumbing after his boiler began to leak water. Paffett inspected it and recommended a new boiler, quoting £1,650 for the work. After Leeming did the work - in breach of the prohibition notice - faults became apparent and the householder contacted Gas Safe. Its inspection found the work below current standards and the HSE was asked again to investigate.

Paffett, of St James Meadow, Boroughbridge, who had admitted three breaches of the Gas Safety Regulations, was sentenced to a total of six months’ imprisonment suspended for 12 months. Leeming, of Frances Street, York, who had pleaded guilty to three breaches of the regulations and one offence of contravening a prohibition notice, was also given six months’ jail suspended for 12 months. In addition, each defendant was given 150 hours’ community service.

HSE Inspector Kate Dixon said: “These two men pretended to be Gas Safe registered and put profit before safety – deliberately deceiving these two householders and putting at least one young family at risk.

“Some of the faults were quite basic and clearly demonstrated a lack of competence as well as care. In one case, they were also very serious and could have endangered people’s lives.

“HSE would urge homeowners to be on their guard and make sure that all gas engineers are registered and safe to work in their home.

“We will continue to take enforcement action against illegal gas work.”

Anyone wishing to check whether an engineer is Gas Safe registered can visit www.gassaferegister.co.uk or call 0800 408 5500.

All registered engineers will carry an ID card showing which areas they are qualified to work in.