Cuts to Trading Standards could harm Northampton customers in the long-run, judge told

Charles Doherty, 28, John Lee, 44, Michael Rooksby, 28, and Charles Michael Hugh Doherty, 33, were sentenced earlier this week.
Charles Doherty, 28, John Lee, 44, Michael Rooksby, 28, and Charles Michael Hugh Doherty, 33, were sentenced earlier this week.

A barrister who convicted a gang of rogue Northampton builders told the court how county council cuts will harm people's safety.

Northampton Crown Court heard on Monday (October 30) how cuts to Trading Standards teams will mean fraudulent builders like Charles Michael Hugh Doherty and his gang will be harder to catch and prosecute in the future.

Read the Chronicle & Echo's coverage of how the gang conned over £138,000 from pensioners and left an elderly Northampton man penniless here.

Cameron Crowe, of the Crown Prosecution Service, took time in his speech to the judge to thank Northamptonshire’s Trading Standards unit for their work to convict the four men.

It comes as Northamptonshire County Council announced a plan to make £9.6million in cuts to balance the books, and is considering making 16 members of its Trading Standards team redundant - nearly half of its 34-strong workforce.

Mr Crowe said: “Trading Standards officers used significant amounts of time and resources in this case at a time when there are national cuts to the service.

“There could be serious effects on their ability to investigate and prosecute in the future.”

The county council outlined the risk these cuts would have in its own financial plan published in October, admitting that: “the ability to protect consumers will be significantly diminished.”

The plan also concedes that the remaining trading standards officers would find it difficult to catch people abusing animals, selling knives or alcohol to children, and dealing in illegal tobacco.

Legitimate firms would also lose money through being deprived of legal guidance and being undercut by those selling fake and unsafe goods.

Safety testing of flammable products, electrical items and toys would also be lost.