Illegal gas fitter prosecuted after risking lives in Crewe

Published:  22 April, 2013

A Nantwich man has been ordered to carry out 300 hours of community service after he put lives at risk by illegally carrying out gas work at three homes in Crewe.

Duncan Johnstone, 52, of Moorfields in Willaston, was prosecuted on 19 April by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) after pretending to be a registered gas fitter and leaving gas pipes at one house in a condition classified as “immediately dangerous”.

Crewe Magistrates’ Court heard he failed to cap off the gas pipes at the house on Walthall Street after removing two gas fires in October 2010. This meant gas could be released if a valve was left open. The court was also told Mr Johnstone had installed gas central heating at houses on Myrtle Street and Alton Street, despite not being a registered gas fitter. He returned to all three properties on several occasions between 2007 and 2011 to carry out repairs.

When an investigator from Gas Safe Register visited two of the houses, he found defects with Johnstone’s work which were putting lives at risk.

An HSE investigation found Johnstone had also carried out annual gas safety checks at the three houses, even though he was not registered to do so. He used two fake Gas Safe Register ID numbers when completing the formal documents on the checks, giving the impression they met strict legal requirements.

Johnstone was ordered to carry out 300 hours of community service, and received a suspended six-month prison sentence. He was also told to pay full prosecution costs of £2,702 after pleading guilty to multiple breaches of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998.

HSE inspector Deborah Walker said: "Johnstone carried out illegal and unsafe gas work over a period of nearly eight years and is lucky no one was seriously harmed as a result. The gas fittings at one of the properties were found to be in an immediately dangerous condition and I dread to think what the consequences could have been if this hadn’t been identified.

"Gas work has the potential to cost lives if it is not carried out by registered gas fitters. We will therefore continue to prosecute anyone who ignores the law."

Chief executive of Gas Safe Register Russell Kramer concluded: "A quarter of a million illegal gas jobs are carried out every year by people who don't have the skills or the qualifications to work safely with gas. One in five of the illegal gas jobs we investigate are found to be immediately dangerous, as was the case in this instance."