A 12-year-old girl with a brain tumour was robbed of a normal life by the shoddy work of a home improvement company.

The girl who was undergoing chemotherapy was one of the people whose lives were blighted by Riverside Resin’s poor workmanship.

She was meant to use the garden for fresh air and exercise, with her sight affected and immune system hit severely by twice-weekly treatment, but it became dangerous with loose boards and exposed screws.

Her dad said in a statement: “The only safe place we could guarantee was her own back garden and this was taken away due to the problems we were having with the boards and screws. Not being able to let a 12-year-old go out in her own garden to get fresh air after receiving such aggressive treatment was heartbreaking, to say the least. I desperately tried on numerous occasions to get the work corrected but this never materialised.”

The Northern Echo: Councillor Norma Stephenson, Stockton Council's cabinet member for access, communities and community safetyCouncillor Norma Stephenson, Stockton Council's cabinet member for access, communities and community safety (Image: LDRS)

They were among 16 victims who lost a total of at least £100,000 over a two-year period from the company’s faulty, unfinished or non-existent work, including thousands it would cost to put things right. Residents complained after paying the Billingham-based company for improvements to driveways, paths, patios and garages, but were ignored, dismissed or fobbed off with excuses or false promises.

Company director Rebecca Wilson, 40, of Anlaby Close, Billingham, was jailed for three years and one month after admitting 17 charges of fraud and 15 of unfair trading. Fellow director David Gillies, 43, of Victoria Avenue, Redcar, received an eight-month jail term suspended for 18 months with 240 hours’ unpaid work after he admitted eight unfair trading counts against seven of the customers.

The victims told of their anger, anguish, anxiety, worry and frustration in moving statements given to Teesside Crown Court on Friday (November 24). Several were left with a mistrust of tradespeople and home improvement companies, with two talking of the experience leaving a cloud hanging over them.

A County Durham customer who lost more than £5,600 and successfully took court action but saw none of her money back, said: “I feel very angry and upset that a company can take the hard-earned money of someone who has worked hard and saved all their life and then use that money to complete substandard work, fail to rectify any problems and then totally ignore any contact. I feel as though I have been conned by fraudsters and robbed of both my money and my trust and left to pick up the pieces of their poor workmanship and the fact that they simply do not care.”

A retired customer from County Durham who lost £4,000 talked of the “thankless task” of chasing up the company to rectify its mistakes: “I found it difficult to concentrate on helping my family due to the cloud of Riverside Resin hanging over my head.

“Although some effort was made to rectify the issues I have been left feeling disappointed and let down. I have effectively lost the money I paid for this resin and, as I am retired and reliant upon pension income, I cannot replace it.”

One Hartlepool customer invested money from her late father in her home, but ended up losing £47,660, leaving her without emergency funds. She said she could “feel the black clouds start to appear” whenever she looked at the faulty works.

The Northern Echo: Teesside Crown CourtTeesside Crown Court (Image: Newsquest)

She wrote: “I was getting them work, inviting them into my home and recommending them to my friends and family, for them now to be in the same position as me, with shoddy work and out of pocket.

“It made me feel so naive and stupid. It made me question myself. I should have stopped them.

“I still cannot use more than two appliances in my kitchen as it trips the sockets. You can imagine how bad Christmas is, cooking for 12.

“I went through a traumatic time. They made me feel stupid, incompetent and a liar. They took my confidence… I look at all the problems, the stress and trauma it caused me and worry about how much it’s going to cost to put it right, and that weight returns to my shoulders.”

One customer from Stockton with health conditions wanted a garden she did not have to maintain. But the poor work cost her £30,000 or more, left her stressed, depressed and so upset she had to stay at her parents’ house for a few months.

She said: “Not only did Riverside Resin ruin my garden and driveway by using the wrong materials and leaving it uneven and patchy but they also caused damage to my garage, as when they installed the resin they covered my air vents, therefore I now have damp in my garage and also my house.

“Unfortunately because of the cowboy job that has been done of my garden, I have not furnished it as I cannot bear to go outside because it really upsets me looking around at the state of my garden and seeing the damp and mould on my garage wall. Even going out to hang the washing out is difficult for me and at times my eyes well up and I cannot help but cry.

“I spent thousands of pounds for what should have been a perfect resin garden, but I have been left with this awful sight and a debt to pay for the rest of my life.”

A woman from Hartlepool, who lost £12,600 after being “promised the earth”, stepped into the witness box to tell the court in person about the impact on her, but she broke down in tears and could not go on. She said: “Our lives have been hell.”

She told how her neighbours falsely thought she took six inches from next door on purpose: “We did no such thing. The whole road has turned against us, having sniggers and name-calling which has been horrendous for all my family.

“The neighbours have never once seen this wasn’t our fault. Even when we had the leak in the middle of the drive or when sewage was running down the drive, it was felt we had done this on purpose.”

Recommended reading: 

Get the latest news, sports, and entertainment delivered straight to your device by subscribing to The Northern Echo here. 

Councillor Norma Stephenson, Stockton Council’s cabinet member for access, communities and community safety, said: “We welcome the sentences given to Mr Gillies and Ms Wilson, whose unacceptable conduct has left victims not just from our borough, but across the North-east, thousands of pounds out of pocket. The sentencing once again serves as a warning to traders to ensure they must take their legal obligations seriously, otherwise they will very likely find themselves dealing with the consequences in court.

“Thank you to our trading standards team and North-east regional investigations team, who have once again demonstrated how efficiently and robustly they investigate reports of unacceptable or fraudulent behaviour. Should you need to contact the council’s trading standards team, they can be reached by calling 01642 526560 or by emailing trading.standards@stockton.gov.uk.”

Lord Michael Bichard, chair of National Trading Standards, said: “Charging thousands of pounds to homeowners for poor quality work – much of it in breach of building regulations – shows a callous disregard for customers and their safety. Victims suffered significant distress and were put at risk in their own homes.

“If you, or someone you know has fallen victim to a fraud like this, you should report it to the Citizens Advice consumer service helpline by calling 0808 223 1133.”