Rogue trader jailed for fraud and unsafe removal of asbestos

An investigation by Stockport Trading Standards and the Health and Safety Executive has led to a successful prosecution.

Asbestos Boss Limited and Daniel Luke Cockcroft of Darnes Avenue, Pyenest, Halifax have been convicted of fraud, carrying out asbestos removal without a licence and breach of a prohibition notice after an investigation by Stockport Trading Standards and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

In September 2021 at an address in Stockport, Asbestos Boss Limited removed an asbestos insulating board ceiling from a domestic integral garage with little to no control measures in place. The asbestos waste was thereafter dumped at the property of the resident, littering the road and pavement with asbestos material.

Asbestos Boss Limited and its director/manager, Daniel Luke Cockcroft, advertised as a licensed asbestos removal company and removed licensable material from domestic properties.

An investigation carried out by the HSE found that Asbestos Boss Limited had never held a licence and their poor working practices resulted in the large scale spread of asbestos and exposure to homeowners and their families. Little to no precautions were taken by Asbestos Boss Limited and so their own workers, as well as anybody at the premises they were working on, were at serious risk of exposure to asbestos.

The investigation by Stockport Trading Standards and the HSE revealed a number of similar cases of licensed work being done across the country, with little or no precautions taken to prevent spread or exposure. It was discovered that Asbestos Boss Limited provided fake air test certificates and waste transfer notes to customers and had also falsified asbestos training certificates and insurance documents. The company and Daniel Cockcroft also breached a prohibition notice on several occasions.

Stockport Trading Standards prosecuted Asbestos Boss Limited and also assisted the HSE prosecution by helping to identify breaches of the prohibition notice and provide details of several reliable witnesses.

The additional sites identified by Stockport Trading Standards proved that Asbestos Boss had breached the Prohibition Notice and caused additional spread and exposure. One such case was the removal of asbestos insulating board from 20 riser cupboards which Asbestos Boss charged £3,000 for their illegal work. The illegal work was of such poor quality, it has resulted in the site owners receiving remedial quotes from licensed contractors in the region of £50-£64,000.

Stockport Trading Standards brought a charge of fraud by false representation contrary to section 1(2)(a) of the Fraud Act 2006 against the company and directors in relation to the falsifying of documents with the intent to deceive, as well as unauthorised use of trade and accreditation logos. This gave the impression that the business was credible and that workers were adequately trained and competent in relation to asbestos removal.

The HSE brought charges against the company and directors for removing asbestos without a licence, failure to prevent spread of asbestos and breach of the prohibition notice at 2 properties. The directors were charged under section 37 of The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 in relation to the company charges.

Daniel Luke Cockcroft of Darnes Avenue, Pyenest, Halifax pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced to 4 months in prison for fraud and 6 months in prison for the HSE offences, making a total prison term of 10 months. He was also ordered to pay compensation to victims.

As the company was not represented in court and no plea was offered on their behalf, a trial in absence was conducted. Having read the comprehensive bundle from Trading Standards and the HSE and having listened to selections from the key witness statements, Judge Begley said that the quality and weight of evidence against Asbestos Boss Limited was overwhelming and he found them guilty of all charges. The company will be sentenced at an additional hearing.

Judge Begley sitting in Manchester Magistrates Court remarked in his summing up that the nature and gravity of Daniel Cockcroft’s offending was plain to see and that he was central to the offences. He then stated that he considered Daniel Cockcroft’s actions to be ‘rogue trading at its worst’. He made it clear that he considered the implications for serious health issues in the future from exposures caused by Mr Cockcroft to be an aggravating feature in the case.

Judge Begley said that by wilfully and flagrantly breaching the prohibition notice, Mr Cockcroft has been central to the deception continuing, resulting in others suffering at his hands. He went on to say that the immediate prison term should act as a message to others that offending in this way will ensure that prison will follow.

Councillor Helen Foster-Grime, Stockport Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Housing, said: “Our Trading Standards team work closely with other agencies and will do our utmost to ensure offenders like this, who carry out work with no regard for the safety of our residents, are brought to justice. I am delighted that these criminals have been held to account. The message is very clear – we will not tolerate this in Stockport and will take robust action wherever possible.”

HSE Inspector Matt Greenly said: “Asbestos is a killer. Companies and their directors need to recognise the dangers of removing asbestos by themselves both to their employees and others. Asbestos removal should only be carried out by trained personnel who understand the risks and how to control them. Asbestos Boss Limited have deliberately removed a highly dangerous material resulting in a significant risk of exposure to cancer causing asbestos. They not only have put their customers at risk but have also undoubtedly put themselves, their workers, and their families at serious risk. By undertaking asbestos removal work himself, Mr Cockcroft has also chanced his own life, and the life of his family by working unsafely with asbestos, despite knowing full well what the risks were. This case should serve as a warning to any other companies who think they can make a quick profit by cutting corners and risking lives. I also hope that potential customers will be able to avoid rogue companies like Asbestos Boss by carrying out simple checks to ensure that any company they employ is legitimate and competent to prevent them and their families being put at serious risk."