Regular readers will know of my anger at the liberties taken by rogue traders who target vulnerable older people with cruel cons.
Last week, I told you about a poor 89-year-old who was tricked into going to her bank to withdraw £15,000 and hand it to an unscrupulous crook who persuaded her she needed to pay him the cash to repair a window. A window that didn’t need repairing, by the way. He was sent to prison for 18 months. A couple of months earlier, I reported the story of a builder who fleeced a pensioner out of half a million pounds over three years. He was sent down for six years.
But similar scumbags could face an even longer sentence in the future after tough new sentencing rules were announced last week. The new guidelines from the Sentencing Council will come into force in October. They promise harsher sentences which take into account the emotional pain and upset of being ripped off by rogue traders, and not just the amount of money lost. The change will make a real difference and will be especially vital for more vulnerable groups that are often targeted by the crooks and conmen, such as the elderly and, incidentally, women.
The money lost is often less important than the deep distress caused by the actions of the unscrupulous traders.
Liz Male, chairman of TrustMark, the Government-endorsed quality mark for reputable tradesmen, points out: “The emphasis on victim impact, as well as taking into account the victim’s vulnerability, is particularly important when it comes to home repairs and improvements because the impact on a victim can be huge, whatever the size of the financial loss.
“Often, it is a homeowner’s personal space and refuge that has been violated, and their confidence badly damaged in just the place where they should feel safest.”
That’s true. And for that reason the new rules allow sentences to stretch to up to 10 years. I hope that does prove a deterrent.