The Court of Appeal has today found that the 21 month sentence handed to Bernard Collins for conspiracy to defraud was unduly lenient and increased it to 3 ½ years’ imprisonment.
This case, involving gross and dishonest overcharging for work on the homes of elderly victims, was referred to the Attorney General’s Office by the North Yorkshire Trading Standards department.
Bernard and his son Barney ran a building and gardening business; they would cold call potential customers in the hope of persuading them to agree to having work done; the sales technique they deployed was designed to pressure the customer into agreeing to have work done. The work, when carried out, was of a poor standard and the customer was overcharged and the two victims of this technique were elderly and vulnerable and were tricked into parting with large sums of money for unnecessary or non-existent work.
In July of this year at Teesside Crown Court, Bernard Collins pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to defraud and one count of money laundering. He was sentenced to 21 months’ imprisonment. That sentence comprised 21 months’ imprisonment for each of the conspiracies to run concurrently, and a concurrent term of 9 months’ imprisonment for money laundering. That sentence was increased to 3 ½ years’ imprisonment.
Barney Collins pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to defraud and was sentenced to 10 months’ detention to run concurrently for each of the conspiracies. The Court of Appeal declined to interfere with his sentence, although agreed that a more appropriate term would be 15 months.
Speaking after the hearing, Solicitor General, Oliver Heald QC MP said:
This case was another example of conmen tricking elderly victims into giving them money for needless maintenance work on their properties. In one case it would have cost nearly a thousand pounds to put things right.
Barney and Bernard Collins carefully targeted their victims; one suffered from Alzheimer’s and was driven to two different banks to withdraw money for them. When the second bank became suspicious they callously left her there, distressed and confused. No work was ever identified as having been carried out at her home other than very minor repairs to a fence.
Older people should not be preyed upon in their own homes. I am grateful that the Court of Appeal today has increased the sentence Bernard Collins to 3 ½ years and I hope this sends out a clear warning to anyone who feels they’ll be let off lightly for this type of crime.