A man whose fraudulent rogue trading left victims 'upset and distressed' has been sentenced to 27 months in prison.

The prosecution was brought by North Somerset Council’s Trading Standards team.

Thomas Williams, 31, was sentenced at Bristol Crown Court on Wednesday (March 6) after pleading guilty to 12 charges of fraud at an earlier hearing last month.

Mr Williams was the sole director of Clevedon-based business Absolute Bathrooms and Kitchens Limited. Between January 2019 and September 2022, he took thousands of pounds from his victims, many of them pensioners, for work he either did not start or failed to complete.

Williams’ crimes affected seven victims in Clevedon, Nailsea, Portishead and Weston-super-Mare. Not only did Williams deprive the victims of more than £28,000, they also had to pay for other tradesmen to either complete or rectify Williams’ work.

North Somerset Council's Trading Standards first became concerned by Williams’ business practices in 2022. Multiple victims were contacted, with many of them saying that he had taken money for work he had not carried out or appliances he had not ordered, or that he did not refund money when he said that he would.

In other cases, work undertaken by Williams had been substandard, but customers were ignored when attempts were made to contact him.

Mr Williams set up Absolute Bathrooms and Kitchens Limited in 2019. In June 2021 he applied to dissolve the company, therefore removing any liability for any existing debts or customer redress.

He had already set up another company in readiness to continue trading under a different name. At no time did Williams voluntarily tell his customers that he was intending to close down Absolute Bathrooms and Kitchens Limited.

The council’s Trading Standards officers investigated claims against Mr Williams and gathered evidence which led to this prosecution. The investigation also involved enquiries by His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), who confirmed they had no record of Mr Williams or Absolute Bathrooms and Kitchens Limited paying any tax during the trading period of the company. In addition to this prosecution, Mr Williams will also face a hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act at a future date.

Personal statements from Williams’ victims were gathered as part of the investigation. Their accounts told how Williams took money for work he never started or completed, left some elderly and vulnerable victims without a bathroom or kitchen for a number of weeks without any explanation and in some instances without the funds to have the work done or completed. Victims expressed how embarrassed and upset they were by his treatment of them.

Some said it had also affected their family relationships, impacted their physical and mental health, and that they are now less confident in themselves and wary of all tradesmen.

At yesterday’s hearing, Williams was given a custodial sentence of 27 months. His Honour Judge Edward Burgess (KC) commented that Mr. Williams’ fraudulent activities took place over a long period of time and, although there was no evidence that he targeted the elderly, he did take advantage of them. It was clear from the victims’ personal statements that Williams’ behaviour, repeated lies and excuses caused stress and physical illnesses, such as high blood pressure, as well as them having to deal with his confrontational and aggressive behaviour.  

Cllr James Clayton, North Somerset Council’s executive member for safety in the community said: “This was an extremely complex investigation. The offender was initially offered advice but refused to engage with officers, leaving them no option but to pursue matters formally.

“Rogue trading of this nature is fraudulent and can be devastating for victims. I especially want to thank the local residents who assisted the case by sharing their experiences of Williams’ offences. This prosecution sends out, yet again, the clear message that we won’t tolerate this type of behaviour in North Somerset and will seek to hold offenders to account.”

Anyone can report concerns about suspected rogue traders to the Citizen’s Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133.