Gas fitting work done at a chip shop in Marham was so poor that it could have exploded and killed people, a court heard on Wednesday.
Richard Stowe, 45, of Oswestry, pleaded guilty to three Health and Safety breaches at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court over his work at Nino’s in Upper Marham and a site in Chelmsford in 2011.
Stowe was given a five-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months with 240 hours’ unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay £1,000 of the prosecution’s £33,000 investigation and legal costs.
Chairman Caroline Mitchell told Stowe they had considered jailing him immediately, adding: “You were driven by financial motives.
“This was not an isolated lapse. It’s set against a prior clear warning. This is a flagrant breach.
“At Dukes Fish Bar and Nino’s Fish Bar there was such an obvious and overwhelming risk caused to those using, working or in the near vicinity of either fish bar. The potential of this is shocking.”
Matthew Taylor, prosecuting for the Health and Safety Executive, said Stowe was not Gas Safe registered, a legal requirement.
Sylvia Connor took on a lease for a fast food outlet in Duke Street and was converting it into a fish bar. Stowe quoted her £16,000 to install the gas fryer in May 2011.
There were issues about work Stowe had done and she called in another engineer who immediately categorised it as dangerous, said the prosecutor.
“The most concerning was the gas range had to be immediately switched off and isolated from the gas supply because there were gas leaks from screw fittings and uncontrollable fires within the combustion chamber.
“They presented an immediate danger to persons in the vicinity and the public of the danger of an explosion.”
Sarah Read, mitigating, said Stowe’s marriage was breaking down at the time, which contributed to his problems.
He believed he could carry out work to a certain stage and then get the equipment commissioned by a Gas Safe engineer.
“It’s not a case of somebody who is a cowboy builder.” He was now undergoing the Gas Safe examinations, she added.