Builder who put lives of family of four at risk receives suspended sentence
A builder put the lives of a family of four at serious risk when he illegally installed a gas boiler and faulty wiring in their home, a court has heard.
David Liptrott walked away from the kitchen extension project having been paid £35,000 in full but before completing it or rectifying the faults.
Today Ipswich Court was told that experts called in by Peter and Josephine French ordered the unsafe boiler to be switched off an condemned new wiring as posing a risk of someone being electrocuted.
Liptrott, 54, of Green Lane, Earl Stonham, pleaded guilty to two Health and Safety Act offences of failing to ensure the safety of the family and one offence of engaging in misleading commercial practice by falsely claiming to be a limited company.
Sentencing Liptrott to nine months imprisonment suspended for 15 months, Judge Rupert Overbury told Liptrott: “You were taking risks in order to maximise profit.”
Prosecuting, Jamas Hodivala said Mr and Mrs French had employed Liptrott to extend the kitchen of their home at Ringshall but ended up with the lives of themselves and their two children being put at risk.
Liptrott had planned to use a qualified engineer to install a new gas boiler but decided instead to do the work himself, at one stage being seen testing for leaks from pipework joints with a naked flame.
When an independent expert was called in to examine Liptrott’s work, it was found that the metal casing of the boiler had not been earthed and could have delivered a fatal electric shock.
Wiring installed by Liptrott instead of a qualified electrician was found to have “very serious” faults, said Mr Hodivala, and was also at risk of causing electric shocks.
The court heard that Mr French had believed, from letterheads being used by Liptrott, that he was dealing with a limited company and said he would have not engaged him if he knew that company had already been liquidated.
In a statement, Mr French said: “My home is a constant reminder of the nightmare we experienced.”
The problems caused by Liptrott had been a source of distress and concern.
Mr French said that completing the building work which had been abandoned by Liptrott and making good the problems he caused was estimated would cost £27,490.
Appearing for Liptrott, Charles Falk said his client had hardly worked since problems with the contract emerged in late 2012 and was now in poor health and his weight had ballooned to 28 stones.
Mr Falk said that while it was accepted some of the work had been sub standard, no injuries had been caused. Liptrott had planned to use sub contractors but had been let down.
Liptrott had been running a limited company when he quoted for the contract but accepted that he was not when he started work.
He said: “This is a case of a defendant running a small building firm, being unable to cope and falling ill both mentally and physically.”
Currently Liptrott ran a small building business called We Build Suffolk but because of his poor health was only involved in preparing costings with the physical work being done by his two sons, said Mr Falk.
Liptrott’s finances were poor with his family house, which has a £400,000 mortgage, due to be repossessed later this month because of arrears.
Sentencing him, Judge Overbury told Liptrott: “It is sheer luck that no-one was killed as a result of your shoddy and illegal work.
“You took money for work which you were not competent to do and left Mr and Mrs French thousands of pounds out of pocket.”
Judge Overbury said a gas explosion could have occurred at any time and the family had been left at risk of a potentially fatal electric shock.
The judge said: “You were an experienced builder who would have known of the risks inherent in carrying out works to the gas supply.”
Judge Overbury ordered Liptrott to pay £27,490 compensation to Mr and Mrs French within the next 12 months.
Failure to meet that deadline will result in a 15 month prison sentence.
Liptrott will also have to pay £16,000 towards the cost of the prosecution.