A BUILDER who carried out in-part sub-standard work at the home of a couple and overcharged them, must pay them back £1,000 per month or risk a prison sentence.

The customers, who are in their 60s, were said to be £33,000 out of pocket through the activities of Simon Stephen McLean.

He engaged in extension work on their home in Murton, County Durham, without informing them he was bankrupt in 2015.

Durham Crown Court heard the job began as a dormer conversion, with further work which followed, but McLean at one point threatened to leave the job unfinished unless they paid him a further £13,000, for which they had to take out a loan.

Phillip Morley, prosecuting for Durham County Council, said some of the work was uncompleted and sub-standard, although part of the job was carried out properly.

The council ultimately brought charges against McLean for consumer protection and Proceeds of Crime offences.

Forty-year-old McLean, of The Hollow, Howden-le-Wear, near Crook, admitted knowingly engaging in reckless commercial practice, engaging in misleading commercial practice and acquiring, using or possessing criminal property.

Since the defendant made his admissions, in April, Judge Christopher Prince has sought to ensure he pays back the couple involved, with the threat of a prison sentence hanging over him in the background.

Appearing at the court, on Friday, his counsel, David Lamb, said McLean has a job with a local transport company as a large goods vehicle driver, to start next week, with the prospect of him being able to pay back £1,000 a month to the householders, representing half his monthly salary.

Having heard evidence, on oath, from the haulier, confirming the job offer, Judge Prince agreed to defer sentence for nine months.

He told McLean that if he manages to repay £9,000 by March 1, he would consider extending the deferment for a further six months to enable him to make further £1,000 payments.

Addressing Mr Lamb, Judge Prince said: “He needs to know if I sentenced him today he would be going to prison.

“If he makes the repayments for nine months and then a further six months down the line he will be nearly half way there and there may be a realistic that the remainder may be paid.

“I then may be able to suspend the sentence.

“That’s all he needs to do.”

Mr Lamb thanked the judge on the defendant’s behalf and added: “He knows the ball is very much in his court and he wishes me to tell you he is grateful.”

The judge added: “I’m afraid I remain cynical, but we’ll see.”

He bailed McLean to return to court on March 1, next year.