A rogue trader who failed to complete jobs he was pre-paid to carry out, has been given a suspended prison sentence, plus 200-hours of unpaid work.

Paul Devine, of Cumbrian Way, Peterlee, admitted seven offences relating to unfair trading, including engaging in misleading commercial practices, between October 2020 and July 2021.

It follows separate investigations by Durham County Council and Durham Constabulary over complaints about his business activities.

The 25-year-old defendant, formerly from Billingham, traded as Devine Roofing and Property Maintenance when he first took upfront payments for work which he failed to carry out or make a refund.

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He was paid combined sums of more than £17,000 by six different customers to carry out roofing and home improvement works.

In each case, he required an upfront payment for materials, which was paid by customers, despite work then either not being carried out at all or not being completed.

He also failed to refund the customers for the payment already provided.

Having previously pleaded guilty to seven offences, five of which were brought by the council and two by the police, Devine appeared at Durham Crown Court for sentence.

Judge James Adkin imposed a six-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, during which Devine must also take part in 30 days of rehabilitation activity overseen by the Probation Service, and complete 200 hours of unpaid work over the next 12 months.

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Joanne Waller, who heads the council’s community protection services section, said: “Devine’s actions have not only left a number of customers counting the cost but also damaged their faith in trades people as a result.

“They also caused a great deal of distress to those people who had paid in good faith and rightly expected work to be carried out as agreed.

“I hope this case serves as a warning to any rogue traders who are thinking about operating across County Durham, as we will always take action against those who have scammed residents.”

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A police financial investigation will also now be staged under the Proceeds of Crime Act with a view to a compensation hearing to refund the defendant’s victims to be considered at the conclusion.

A provisional confiscation hearing date has been set at the court on May 19.

* Anyone who has concerns about a trader and the work they have carried out is advised to contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline, on (03454) 040506.