THE FULL STORY: Prosecutors catch up with stairlift boss involved in multiple deceitful mobility firms
Cheshire East Council’s trading standards team has successfully prosecuted Belinda Rogers, a former Director of Britannia Homelifts, trading as British Homelifts, after the company left numerous elderly customers more than £50,000 out of pocket.
Having been on THIIS’ radar since late 2017 when customers and former employees highlighted allegedly shady practices, Rogers was found to have accepted huge deposits from her customers but failed to deliver stairlifts to some customers or knowingly installed products that were faulty.
The court was told of eight instances where customers had paid substantial deposits – from £7,000 to £13,500 – for stairlifts and through-the-floor domestic lifts intended to assist people with mobility difficulties.
Some lifts were not delivered at all and those that were delivered developed faults and could not be used or were not fit for purpose.
Rogers, who advertised her business nationally, appeared at Chester Crown Court on 28 November for sentencing and was told by the judge Mr Justice Ian Dove that she displayed ‘dreadful’ business incompetence, had caused financial distress to her customers, had let old people down and demonstrated a litany of failures.
She pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to contravening professional diligence, an offence under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
Running British Homelifts from office in Congleton, Rogers received a six months’ suspended prison sentence and was ordered to pay £50,350 in compensation to people she had let down, plus £500 compensation to each of three customers who suffered distress after their lifts failed to arrive.
In addition, she was also ordered to carry out 100 hours’ unpaid work.
She was also disqualified from being a company director for 10 years and ordered to pay £7,500 in prosecution costs. Her prison sentence was suspended for two years.
According to Cheshire East Council’s trading standards team, the case represents one of the most distressing cases it has had to investigate and involved support from other trading standards teams around the country.
The prosecution follows a distasteful period of trading in the mobility sector which has seen Rogers involved in mobility companies alongside Craig James Paterson, the former MD of Churchills Mobility and a number of other ill-reputed mobility companies.
Starting with Churchills Mobility
Incorporated in October 2013, Paterson had originally been the director of direct sales mobility firm Churchills Mobility, which supplied and installed homelifts and stairlifts across the UK. In October 2014, Rogers joined the company as a director.
Incurring loses, the company entered into Creditor’s Voluntary Liquidation in December 2015, with liquidators Ideal Corporate Solutions appointed to wind-up the company in January 2016.
The liquidators informed the Insolvency Service that Churchills Homecare had continued to accept advanced payments from customers after Paterson should have known the company was insolvent, with it coming to light that between the 4th and 23rd December 2015, the company accepted £66,000 in deposits despite knowing the company was going to cease trading.
At that time, Paterson repaid himself a loan worth £125,000 that he had made to Churchills Mobility, consisting partly of the £66,000 of ill-gotten customer money.
Additionally, Rogers ceased being a director of Churchills Mobility in December, just prior to the company entering liquidation.
The establishment of British Homelifts
Having taken his money out of the failing Churchills Mobility, Paterson purchased the remaining Churchills Mobility stock from the realisation of distressed assets & debt firm Cerberus – appointed by Ideal Corporate Solutions – for £15,000, with Cerberus noting that the swift sale of stock would be the best course for maximising the assets’ value.
Almost immediately after ceasing to be the director of Churchills Mobility, Rogers became the director of newly-launched British Homelifts, which was incorporated in May 2016.
The new venture operated in the same manner of Churchills Mobility, using national advertising to sell directly to customers, with only Rogers being named as a director of the British Homelifts.
Despite his name not being down on paper, Paterson put up the money for the new company, as well as the repurchased Churchills stock, to get British Homelifts off-the-ground.
During her case, Rogers said the day-to-day running of the business was delegated to staff and she relied on her managers. She said staff had not followed procedures.
Speaking with a source close to the company in March 2018 however, it was alleged to THIIS that Paterson has been heavily involved in all aspects of British Homelifts operations.
The extent of unscrupulous practices revealed
During the prosecution of Rogers, the courts heard how eight customers had been left out-of-pocket.
One 96-year-old, who lost £11,000, had a hole cut in his floor but waited 18 weeks for his lift only to learn the business had gone bust. When another elderly customer refused to pay the balance until repairs were made, the company instead deactivated his lift, which the local council condemned as a fire hazard owing to its location in the house.
An elderly woman – who paid an £8,000 deposit – was left with a hole in her floor for two months and never received her lift or a refund. She had to sleep downstairs.
Another elderly woman paid £6,365 but the lift installed had no stop mechanism and she suffered falls from the equipment as a result. She was also forced to sleep downstairs for five months, suffering ‘significant’ impact on her health and wellbeing.
Although three customers were reimbursed via their credit card chargeback scheme, others lost substantial sums when the company went into liquidation.
The court heard how Rogers would sell property to reimburse all those who lost money.
Trading standards respond to the prosecution
After the hearing Frank Jordan, Cheshire East Council’s acting Executive Director of Place, said: “This was a lengthy, and at times, distressing investigation by our trading standards officers and I wish to thank them for bringing this case to court and ending the highly irregular and insensitive business practices of this company.
“The council would also wish to express its sympathy for these elderly, vulnerable adults who have lost huge sums of money as a result of the incompetence of this individual.”
Mary Nash, daughter of Dr John and Rosemary Gittus, from Alcester, Warwickshire, said: “My father died early this year, aged 87. He never recovered from the distress this had caused him. It has been desperately distressing and all the people affected by this have been elderly and vulnerable people.
“I am eternally grateful to Cheshire East trading standards for the hard work they have carried out to bring this matter to court.”
On the 9th January 2019 in the High Court in Manchester, HHJ Hodge QC handed down a Disqualification Order for a period of six years to Paterson for accepting payments despite the business being insolvent, as well as repaying a loan to himself.
Rogers provided a disqualification undertaking to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on 11th May 2018 after not disputing that she had failed in her duties as a director to prevent Craig Paterson accepting customers’ payments.
She was banned for two years, however, the successful prosecution by Cheshire East Council’s has succeeded in securing a further disqualification for Rogers, owing to the scale of the distress and financial loss to her customers.https://thiis.co.uk/the-full-story-prosecutors-catch-up-with-stairlift-boss-involved-in-multiple-deceitful-mobility-firms/https://i2.wp.com/thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/british_homelifts.jpg?fit=1000%2C416&ssl=1https://i2.wp.com/thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/british_homelifts.jpg?resize=150%2C150&ssl=1NewsroomRetailer NewsSupplier NewsTrade NewsBelinda Rogers,Britannia Homelifts,Britannia Stairlifts,British Homelifts,Cheshire,Cheshire East Council,Chester Crown Court,Churchhills Mobility,Churchill's Stairlifts,Churchills Mobility,Congelton,Craig Paterson,homelifts,Prosection,sentence,Suspended Sentence,through-floor-lifts,trading standardsCheshire East Council’s trading standards team has successfully prosecuted Belinda Rogers, a former Director of Britannia Homelifts, trading as British Homelifts, after the company left numerous elderly customers more than £50,000 out of pocket.Having been on THIIS’ radar since late 2017 when customers and former employees highlighted allegedly shady practices,...Calvin BarnettCalvin Barnettcalvin@thiis.co.ukAdministratorTHIIS Magazine