Builder jailed for suing man whose home he had wrecked


A builder has been jailed for fraud and for trying to pervert the course of justice after he tried to sue a man whose house he had wrecked.

Lee Fernhead, 45, who had been taken on to do building work at the home of Brian Roche, 52, was jailed for three years and 6 months at Liverpool Crown Court.

Fernhead had been recommended to Mr Roche by a mutual friend in October 2005 and the two men met up and a plan of work was drawn up.

The cost was agreed and the Roche family moved out while the work was being done. But things soon started to go wrong.

Mr Roche was concerned that the work didn't seem to be progressing and that the men Fernhead had taken on to work with him seemed inexperienced.

As the months went by and a completion date seemed no nearer, Mr Roche finally paid Fernhead off on the understanding that he didn't owe him any more money.

The work that Fernhead had done was condemned by various utility companies and Mr Roche was forced to bring other tradesmen in to put things right.

The property was now uninhabitable and Mr Roche was living in the north while Mrs Roche and the children moved to her family in London.

On a visit to check on the property, Mr Roche found a summons to the County Court. Fernhead was claiming Mr Roche owed him a further £26,500.

Mr Roche contested the case and insisted Fernhead had been fully paid and that the documentation Fernhead supplied to prove his case had been forged.

Fernhead was now living in his flat in Budapest and an independent computer expert was brought in to remotely examine the documentation on his computer.

The expert remotely copied relevant material to two memory sticks sent to Fernhead and took pictures of the documents on the computer with his own camera.

But when the memory sticks were sent back to England, the material had been corrupted and Fernhead was suspected of tampering with them.

However, the camera shots that the expert had taken confirmed that much of Fernhead's documentation had been forged and Fernhead dropped his civil claim.

The County Court judge was concerned and asked the police to investigate possible offences of fraud and of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Fernhead was charged and, despite initially denying the charges and then failing to appear for trial, pleaded guilty and was sentenced.

A series of Proceeds of Crime hearings have been set to recover the money Fernhead took from Mr Roche.

Gary Simpson, Senior Crown Prosecutor with Mersey-Cheshire Crown Prosecution Service said: "Fernhead sought to use the civil justice system to obtain money he was not entitled to.

"When Mr Roche defended this claim, Fernhead resorted to making false documents on his computer and creating bogus invoices from building merchants to back up his figures and serving them on the court.

"The County Court judge was so concerned about how he'd tried to manipulate the court that he prompted the criminal investigation. This ultimately led to a fraudster being convicted and sent to prison."