Lurgan builder handed suspended jail sentence for substandard work

Benjamin McCaughley (34) appeared at Downpatrick Crown Court, sitting in Belfast on Thursday.

A TRADESMAN who undertook building work on three properties which ultimately left the owners out of pocket has avoided an immediate jail term.

Two of the homeowners were elderly, whilst all three experienced financial loss due to the actions of 34-year old Benjamin McCaughley.

The father-of-five, from Springhill Road in Lurgan, appeared at Downpatrick Crown Court, sitting in Belfast on Thursday, where he was handed an 18-month sentence which was suspended for three years.

As he imposed the sentence Judge Geoffrey Miller KC told McCaughley "you are, like the foundations of the building work you carried out, a man of straw".

Despite initial denials, McCaughley pleaded guilty to six counts of engaging in a misleading commercial practice and five counts of recklessly engaging in commercial practice which contravenes professional diligence.

All the offences were committed on dates between November 1, 2019 and July 3, 2021 at properties in Bangor, Jordanstown and Holywood, whilst he traded under the name 'Regional Contractors.'

The court heard the charges arose from complaints made to the Trading Standards Services by three homeowners, all of whom engaged McCaughley to undertake building/landscaping jobs.

In all three cases, McCaughley offered a ten-year guarantee and initially said he would only take payment when the work was completed.

However, all three homeowners experienced demands for money upfront and were left with jobs that were incomplete or in need or reconstruction due to a poor standard of work.

Judge Miller revealed some of the work undertaken by McCaughley was so "incompetent" it required "demolition and starting again from scratch".

He added: "As a result, the three complainants not only have had to endure the discomfort and stress of living in an unfinished building site but are thousands of pounds worse off."

Revealing McCaughley started working in the building trade aged 14, the Judge said he was "totally out of his depth in taking on these contracts" and "effectively blackmailed his clients".

Defence submissions made by barrister Michael Ward indicated McCaughley's remorse and a motivation to desist from further offending.

Mr Ward said his client has now confined his work solely to landscaping and was an industrious man who provided for his family.

As he imposed the suspended sentence, Judge Miller said: "Whatever hope there is of meaningful compensation being made in this case is dependent on your ability to work."

McCaughley was also ordered to pay £6,000 compensation and was banned from holding a directorship position with a company for three years.