The illegal installation of a gas boiler at a hotel in Hertfordshire has led to two men being prosecuted for this and other offences, after it was labelled “a danger to life or property”.
Plumber James Outtridge, 62, of Upper Swains, Epping, was described as “a friend of the Railway Hotel’s landlord” by the Herts and Essex Observer.
He pleaded guilty at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court to three gas regulation offences concerning failing to ensure an approved person carried out work between 5 November, 2013 and 27 February, 2014.
His co-accused, Scott Wilson, 43, of Buckwells Fields, Bengeo, Hertford, pleaded guilty to two offences relating to carrying out a Gas Safe check on a commercial catering grill on 27 February last year and, separately, on a hot water boiler, a heating boiler and the grill when not technically approved or competent.
Mr Wilson was ordered to pay £2,000, with £731 costs, and Mr Outtridge received a 12-month community order with 200 hours’ unpaid work, plus £1,300 costs.
Hotel boss Steve Linsell had been on holiday in November 2013 when he was told his guests had no hot water, so contacted his friend Mr Outtridge, who trades as EH & D Outtridge.
A new boiler was ordered and installed by Mr Outtridge during his lunch break, according to Mr Wilson’s response to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
HSE prosecutor Susan Matthews told the court Mr Outtridge was asked to carry out safety checks on gas appliances at the hotel, but did not use registered engineers.
“He asked two complete strangers who he met at a builders’ merchant who happened to be wearing Gas Safe logos. He paid them £50 cash and left them unsupervised at the hotel. He was unable to provide names or contact details to show they were registered and competent,” said Ms Matthews.
The boiler was later classed as “at risk, a danger to life or property”, with inadequate ventilation in the store room, a wrongly- sized pipe and no cleaning access, the court was told.
Ms Matthews said the landlord thought his appliances were safe, but had been deceived by fraudulent gas safety reports from the two people recruited by Mr Wilson.
She added: “There were flagrant breaches of regulations that are to protect the public, including the landlord, who trusted James Outtridge.”
Nicholas Seeley, mitigating for Outtridge, said that he had been a plumber for more than 40 years and had not been prosecuted before.
“He put friendship before responsibility to others. He never intended to deceive Mr Linsell because they are friends,” said Mr Seeley.
He added that Mr Outtridge had also misplaced trust in others and there had been no financial gain for himself.