'Shoddy' builder who left Portsmouth homeowners with wrecked homes avoids jail

A ROGUE trader who left a trail of devastation that cost homeowners more than £80,000 has been spared jail after causing ‘misery’.

By David George
Saturday, 28th November 2020, 7:00 am

Portsmouth Crown Court heard Nicholas Hutton, 57 of Maxwell Road, Southsea, botched repair work at six properties across the city leaving them ‘dangerous’.

Hutton, who owned Appledore Roofing and Building Contractors, treated his victims as ‘prey,’ telling them that their roofs needed replacing, when there were no issues to be found.

He then forced homeowners to pay up before doing a ‘shoddy’ job and causing further problems for victims.

Builder Nicholas Hutton pleaded guilty to six counts of contravening professional diligence and one count of engaging in misleading commercial practice. Picture: (070820-5922)

Water leaked into their homes, causing structural damage, damp and in one case, almost starting a fire, the court heard.

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Much of the work, including guttering and insulation, was left unfinished, with independent surveyors describing the work as ‘significantly’ below expected standards and valuing it at absolutely nothing.

Working alongside his son and one other between December 2016 and August 2018, Hutton would disappear and ignore calls, texts and voicemails from his victims, even claiming his phone had been corrupted and asking the victims who they were.

Builder Nicholas Hutton leaving Portsmouth Crown Court. Picture: (070820-5938)

Prosecuting, Duncan Milne said: ‘Hutton generated business by word of mouth and leafleting.

‘(Once work started) the prices increased for more work to be done.

‘One victim said he would disappear during the day, saying it was “too hot to work”.

‘This was the defendant’s business and he had the leading role.

‘The trader bears the responsibility even if he didn’t do every piece of work himself.’

One homeowner, who lives in Southsea, was charged £49,005 for work around their property, which was not completed and led to water leaks throughout the home.

Another property in Milton was left with an unfinished roof, which had to be tended to by firefighters after rainwater came close to damaging electrics, which could potentially have set fire to the building.

Overall, victims paid Hutton £85,496 – much of which he spent on luxury holidays around the country, the court heard.

Graham Gilbert, defending Hutton, proposed that any custodial sentence should be suspended, due to the cowboy builder’s ailing health.

He said: ‘Hutton had a fall in 2016 that left him unable to do a significant amount of work – after the fall he became depressed and was drinking heavily.

‘Your honour will be aware of Hutton’s extremely poor health, with prostate cancer, which is in a late stage and aggressive.’

Having pleaded guilty to six counts of contravening professional diligence and one count of engaging in misleading commercial practice on August 23 last year, his victims have been waiting more than a year for justice.

Judge Timothy Mousley QC said Hutton’s health complications and the delays in his sentencing were the only things that spared him an immediate custodial sentence.

‘What you did made these properties dangerous to live in,’ he said.

‘Your work was shoddy and riddled with basic errors – you took gross advantage of people’s vulnerability with costs being way out from the work that needed to be done.

‘Nobody else should have to suffer at your hands.’

Hutton received an eight month custodial sentence, suspended for two years.

Court costs and compensation will be added following an investigation, with a hearing due next year.

The News’ consumer champion Richard Thomson reported on Hutton last year, after 79-year-old Milton pensioner Gloria Green was left with an unfinished bathroom by the builder.

Her dispute with him did not form part of the court case.

Since the offences took place, Hutton has stopped working and liquidated his company.

A spokesman for Portsmouth City Council, which brought the prosecution, said: ‘The actions of this man brought misery to his victims, including vulnerable people.

‘We will not tolerate those who prey on Portsmouth residents like this, and will prosecute them whenever possible.

‘We're glad that this case has been brought before the court and hope it sends a message to other rogue traders.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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