A TRADESMAN claimed payment for work he never carried out in the grounds of a luxury hotel over a period of more than three months, a court was told.

Stephen Anthony Bowater was paid more than £10,000 to which he was not entitled after submitting invoices for ground work to the finance department of Ramside Estates Ltd, which operates the Ramside Hall Hotel, near Durham, between December 13, 2019, and March 26, 2020.

Durham Crown Court was told that Bowater, who initially worked legitimately at the site, forged the signature of his former employer on the invoices, to make them appear genuine.

Charged with a single count of fraud, the defendant, denied the offence at a plea hearing in August, last year.

The case was set down for trial later this month, but at a pre-trial hearing his counsel, Chris Morrison, asked for the charge to be put once again.

Bowater, 37, of High Street, West Cornforth, pleaded guilty.

The court was told he has convictions for theft by an employee, from 2018, and in February 2020, he received a 26-week sentence, suspended for 18-months for theft, for which he has completed an additional unpaid work order.

Mr Morrison said, his client’s work at the site was, “not dishonest from the start”.

But he said, “to his credit” the defendant has found, “gainful employment” and is on a three-year contract, doing ground work on a construction company site in Hartlepool.

A probation report prepared for the hearing stated that Bowater has “good prospects”, adding: “It’s quite important employment for him, given his past conviction, and is on good income.”

Mr Morrison said although some of the latest offending was within the suspended sentence period, the defendant has kept out of trouble since early in 2020.

Judge James Adkin told Bowater: “This was a fraud of three-months duration in which you were self-certifying and providing invoices suggesting you worked, carrying out work as a groundsman, when you weren’t.

“You also forged the signature of a former employer, which is an aggravating feature of the case, and you were paid out more than £10,000 as a result.”

But the judge said given his current work status Bowater would be in a position to pay some compensation.

He imposed a nine-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered Bowater to pay £4,800 compensation.

Judge Adkin warned the defendant, however, if he should come before him in future, “you’ll be going downstairs”.

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