Cowboy builder fleeced Bassingbourn couple out of £22,000

Bernard and Margaret Daly were fleeced out of £22,000 by cowboy builder Jazz Beach. Picture: Danny L

Bernard and Margaret Daly were fleeced out of £22,000 by cowboy builder Jazz Beach. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Archant

A cowboy builder who fleeced a couple out of £22,000 has been handed a suspended jail term and a hefty compensation bill.

Margaret and Bernard Daly, of Bassingbourn, hired Jazz Beach of Meldreth to build a two-storey extension including a downstairs toilet – necessary as Margaret had an imminent knee operation, and only an upstairs lavatory.

But the way Beach and his team bodged the work – with crooked walls, sub-par materials and piles of excuses – meant Margaret, 59, had to live upstairs for a week after returning from hospital.

She told the Crow: “I don’t think there was a day when I didn’t cry. I could see it every day when I opened the door.

“My husband, as you can imagine, was extremely angry. He blamed himself. He felt he’d let down not just me, but also his dad – who had left us the money.”

The Dalys decided to build the extension after the death from cancer of 55-year-old lorry driver Bernard’s father. They chose a quote from Beach because his firm JB Builders was able to start quickly, with planned completion before Margaret’s scheduled operation in late July last year.

To fund the £43,000 build, they transferred the rogue trader first £2,000, then two sums of £10,000 each – but what progress was made swiftly deteriorated.

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“The wall that was being built was not straight,” said Margaret. “There was supposed to be 100mm of insulation, but they put 50mm. They used common bricks, the cheapest you can get. And they wouldn’t give any receipts.

“I ended up just telling them that enough was enough.”

A colleague of Beach’s took on the job in his place, but things didn’t improve and work was still unfinished when Margaret went into hospital.

With Bernard regularly away because of work, she was forced to live in the bedroom for a week after coming home so she could use the toilet.

She said: “That week was horrendous for me. I was upstairs with just a kettle and a toaster.”

The situation meant the Dalys had to put their two dogs into kennels for three weeks, causing yet another financial strain. They also had to pay someone else to demolish the ill-fated extension.

After failing to get their money back from Beach, the couple contacted Trading Standards, who brought him to court charged with theft and unfair trading.

Beach represented himself before Cambridge magistrates and denied the charges, but was found guilty of swindling the couple out of £22,000.

Each set of money was withdrawn in cash, the court heard. Beach claimed to have given this back, but evidence showed this to be false.

On Thursday, he was sentenced to 26 weeks behind bars, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to pay £10,000 in compensation at £200 per month, plus £600 costs.

He must also complete 200 hours of unpaid community work, and a rehabilitation activity requirement – and Margaret said that she and Bernard believed some justice had been done.

Margaret said: “We’re really pleased, because if he’d have gone to prison we wouldn’t have got anything.

“This is what we wanted. We wanted him to have a suspended sentence and pay us back our money.”

Cambridgeshire Trading Standards head Peter Gell said: “In this case it was immediately recognised Beach failed to supply important documents to the victims. This restricted the consumer’s freedom of choice to decide on which builder to employ.

“This case has had a distressing impact on the victims. They needed the extension built prior to knee surgery, which meant they couldn’t get proper access in and out of their home, had to put their dogs in kennels and give up part of their life-earned pension money to redo the work.

“We will continue to work with our partners to keep the people of Cambridgeshire safe, and we won’t tolerate this type of rogue trading in our county.”