Illegal gas fitter receives prison sentence

An Accrington man who falsely claimed he was a registered gas engineer has been sent to prison for two years for endangering people's lives at properties in Lancashire, including a baby boy.

Stephen Jonathan was prosecuted by the Health & Safety Executive for six offences, after his work was classified as being 'immediately dangerous'.

Burnley Crown Court heard the 35-year-old's actions had put residents at risk of being killed or seriously injured in a gas explosion or from carbon monoxide poisoning.

The court was told Jonathan falsely claimed he was a registered gas engineer when he installed a new boiler at a community nurse's home on Willows Lane in Accrington on 22 October 2010. Geoff Street regularly looked after his sister's baby in his house, without knowing the boiler was operating dangerously.

An engineer was sent to repair the boiler after it was reported to the manufacturer as being faulty. He classified the installation as being 'immediately dangerous', and disconnected it from the gas supply straight away.

Jonathan's work was reported to Gas Safe Register, which holds the official list of legal and safe gas engineers, and HSE, which carried out an investigation. It found that he had also installed central heating at a house on Avondale Road in Lancaster during November and December 2010.

He had again claimed to be a registered gas engineer, and the installation of the boiler had again been classified as being 'immediately dangerous'.

Stephen Jonathan, of Collins Drive, Baxenden, admitted putting lives at risk, and of carrying out gas work while falsely claiming to be a registered gas engineer. He was sentenced to 24 months in prison at Burnley Crown Court on 20 October 2011.

Geoff Street, 52, spent £1,700 on making the boiler safe at his house on Willows Lane in Accrington. He said: "It's shocking that Stephen Jonathan didn't have any consideration for my life or anyone else's. I was looking after my sister's baby in the house without knowing both our lives were being put in danger by the boiler he installed.

"He appeared quite professional when I first met him. But he refused to come back when I told him the boiler kept switching itself off, and I eventually found out it was actually dangerous.

"I'd advise people to check the Gas Safe website or ring the helpline before agreeing to gas work being carried out. There are some people out there just out to make a fast buck, with no regard for health and safety."

Stuart Kitchingman, the investigating inspector at HSE, added: "Mr Jonathan has displayed an appalling disregard for the lives of other people, and a total contempt for the law.

"He went out of his way to fake qualifications and he continued to carry out gas work illegally. His actions caused a considerable amount of cost and distress to his customers, and it was only luck that no one was seriously harmed.

"It is vital people become members of the Gas Safe Register before carrying out gas work, or they risk putting lives in danger. Members of the public and landlords should also check that gas engineers have a valid Gas Safe Register ID card."

Paul Johnston, Chief Executive of Gas Safe Register, added: "We work closely with the HSE to investigate unregistered gas fitters and the prosecution of Stephen Jonathan comes as welcome news to us all.

"Gas fitters working unregistered like Stephen Jonathan are far more common than you think – we estimate they're doing 250,000 illegal jobs each year, causing fires, explosions, gas leaks, carbon monoxide poisoning and leaving people out of pocket.

"All gas engineers have to be Gas Safe registered – it's the law. Our message to everyone is clear – check the engineer's Gas Safe Register ID card before letting them work on gas."

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