A rogue landscaper who defrauded customers and workmen out of £50k was accused of ‘digging himself out’ of trouble.

Jailing Paul Allcock for 20 months, Recorder John Bate-Williams accused the dad-of-four of inflicting ‘misery’ on his six victims.

“This was clearly persistent dishonesty as you tried literally to dig yourself out,” the judge said.

Oxford Crown Court heard that some of those fleeced by the 52-year-old had been forced to dip into their savings, take out credit cards and ask family members for cash in order to make good his bodged gardening and building jobs.

Another was still paying back a £15,000 loan taken out to pay Allcock for the landscaping work, describing the £300 monthly re-payments as a ‘painful reminder’ of the deception.

Prosecutor Lee Reynolds, for Oxfordshire County Council’s trading standards team, told the court on Friday that Allcock had defrauded his six victims out of around £50,000.

While working as a landscaper in the Witney area, he was contracted to carry out gardening or house renovation jobs.

Despite little work ever being carried out, he sent repeated requests to his customers for payments to cover labour and materials. He made excuses for work not being done, ranging from his wife having ‘stolen’ money from his business accounts to having to look after his children.

One couple was quoted £16,000 for landscaping works to turn their back yard into a ‘low-maintenance garden’. They were promised that the work, which started in November 2017, would be complete by early December.

They paid a £5,600 deposit, then handed over more money ‘for materials’. On December 2, with no work done, Allcock emailed to say he’d split from his partner and she’d taken £8,000.

“At his stage only two trenches had effectively been dug by the defendant,” Mr Reynolds said. The couple had paid £14,600 – the lion’s share of the agreed cost of the work.

Another couple were left in a half-finished house renovation when Allcock bodged improvement works. They were unable to sell the house and, in a victim personal statement read to the court, said: “The winters were hell with the house being so cold with exposed brick and no render.”

A businessman keen to support local suppliers hired Allcock to put up a new fence, impressed by his – false – claims of having served in the British Army. He paid £2,000 and post holes were dug but no other work was carried out.

The rogue trader told the customer in early 2018 that he’d had to look after his children while his baby daughter was going back and forth to hospital to undergo eye surgery.

Prosecutor Mr Reynolds noted: “It would have been better, if I can put it in this awful way, had he taken the money and not done any work because [the properties] were left in an appalling condition needing significant rectification work.”

Recorder Bate-Williams recognised that the defendant had suffered a breakdown in his marriage and had faced ‘significant emotional challenges’ when he committed the frauds in 2017 and early 2018. But he added it was ‘absolutely no excuse for the disgraceful’ behaviour.

He said: “We’ve heard of the real misery you inflicted on the various victims and it is clear that they are suffering very much more than financial loss.

“They have experienced long-term anguish and indeed there is a suggestion one victim has suffered severe mental health problems as a consequence of your fraudulent activity.”

Mitigating, Richard Davies said his client was remorseful and ‘terrified’ of being sent to prison. He had no previous convictions and had run a successful landscaping business in the past. He had four children.

Allcock, of Fallows Road, Northleach, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to 13 counts of fraud and two counts of obtaining services dishonestly.

Following the hearing, Cllr Neil Fawcett, Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for community services and safety, said: “Mr Allcock left both Oxfordshire residents and businesses out of pocket, as well as causing the emotional distress that results from such offending.

"Our trading standards team are here to protect residents from rogue trader activity and to protect the reputation of the majority of traders in Oxfordshire who treat their customers fairly.”

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