Prison sentences for three convicted rogue traders in Highland
4th October 2014
Three brothers from Inverness were jailed for a total of five-and-a-half years at Dingwall Sheriff Court on Thursday 2 October 2014 for doorstep crime offences, defrauding people in their own homes.
James Johnstone (42) pled guilty to charges of extortion, fraud and theft. Peter Johnstone (30) and William Johnstone (35), from Inverness both pled guilty to charges of fraud. The convictions follow a joint investigation over several months led by Police Scotland and involving Highland Council Trading Standards that was initiated after a number of complaints about the activities of the brothers had been received by both organisations.
During the investigations it emerged that the three brothers offered property maintenance services under a variety of trading names including Johnstone Property Maintenance. Their modus operanda also appeared to be designed to frustrate detection sometimes apparently leaving the area for several months at a time. Cold calling unsuspecting householders they would be persistent and persuasive, preying on any perceived vulnerability of those they targeted. In the aftermath of their work surveyors' reports confirmed that either: no repairs were carried out by them or; if there was work done it was minor and substandard often causing further damage to the properties.
Gordon Robb, Highland Council's Trading Standards Manage, said: "Doorstep crime can take many forms and it is often difficult to understand what is meant by bogus workmen or rogue trading. This case is a classic example of this sort of behaviour and one which clearly identifies why consumer protection law has been strengthened in recent years to ensure that the public are given greater protection from aggressive or unfair trading practices, are provided with clear information about any work that they may agree to have done and any cancellation rights they may have.
"This kind of Doorstep Crime can affect anyone if they are not on their guard, but older or vulnerable adults are definitely more at risk from becoming victims. Highland Council Trading Standards has a robust enforcement policy when it comes to this type of crime and will continue to work closely with Police Scotland and other partner agencies to combat it."
Councillor Thomas Prag, Chairman of Highland Council Planning, Development and Infrastructure Committee, acknowledging the conviction said: “It's deplorable that anyone could knock on the door of someone, particularly someone who is vulnerable or elderly, lie to them and steal their money in this way.
“I would encourage anyone who thinks that they, their family or a member of their community has been targeted in this way reports it. It is only when we know about a problem that we can attempt to do something about it. The custodial sentence handed down by the Sheriff in this case, although considered by some to be too lenient is still a very welcome outcome and hopefully one that will deter others who choose to prey on the old and vulnerable."
Anyone with concerns about Doorstep Crime can contact the Police on 101 or Trading Standards, The Highland Council, 38 Harbour Road, Inverness IV1 1UF (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm) no need to make an appointment; phone: 01463 228700 or email: trading.standards[AT]highland.gov.uk