AN unqualified builder, who overcharged customers and failed to complete jobs, has been jailed after being unable to raise funds to compensate the victims.

Darren Paterson admitted four charges of misleading customers and one of fraud, over a period between January 2014 and August 2018, when he appeared at Durham Crown Court earlier this year.

The court heard his company, Jaxon Joinery, undertook extensions, garage conversions and bathroom installations at properties across the North-East.

But the 49-year-old defendant, of Jack Lawson Terrace, Wheatley Hill, County Durham, would ask customers for extra payment midway through projects, supposedly for further materials, and would leave jobs uncompleted, with the victims then having to fork out more money to finish the work, or to put right his shoddy workmanship.

Addressing Paterson at the court, in May, Judge Ray Singh said a prison sentence was “upper most” in his mind, but he challenged Paterson to raise £26,172 to pay his clients for the losses they incurred, which he added, “may be a persuasive factor”, when it came to the outcome of the case.

But, following a six-month deferment of sentence, the defendant returned to court having failed to raise any of the compensation figure.

Paterson, who told the judge in May that he thought it, “would be possible” to raise the money, said that during the past six months he had lost his job and had a number of family issues.

He apologised for failing to come up with the cash and said he has been, “through hell and torture” in that time, having, "applied everywhere,” for loans.

But he said he now has found a job and asked the judge for more time to raise the compensation figure.

His counsel, Lewis Kerr, told the court he was offering to pay back £1,000 a month and said there was a low risk of his client reoffending.

But Judge Singh dismissed the defendant’s apology and his request for further time to meet the compensation payment.

He told Paterson: “You made an awful lot of excuses to your customers as well.

“You knew the ramifications of turning up to court today.”

Imposing a prison sentence of 58 weeks, he added there was, “no doubt in my mind” that the defendant was not going to pay the money back to the customers he defrauded and misled.

The case was brought by Durham County Council’s trading standards department.

Speaking after the hearing, Owen Cleugh, public protection manager for the council, said: “Mr Paterson’s misleading business practices left his victims thousands of pounds out of pocket and caused them considerable stress.

“We are pleased with the judge’s decision to impose a custodial sentence which demonstrates how seriously the courts take such offences.

“Our trading standards team will always seek to support legitimate traders and protect consumers and will take the necessary action against those who mislead or act fraudulently.”

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