Dodgy builder still faces prison

Michael McDonnell
Michael McDonnell
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A judge has warned a dodgy builder from Wigan he may still face jail after leaving customers more than £160,000 out of pocket thanks to his “bad workmanship”.

Standish-based Michael McDonnell, 36, had been allowed time by Judge Philip Sycamore to prove he could meet the terms of a possible compensation order.

McDonnell, of Chorley Road, who ran MM Projects (UK) Ltd, had claimed, during a previous hearing at Preston Crown Court, that he owned land near his home, which had planning permission for housing.

He put a valuation of £120,000 on the holding and claimed he was now a project manager for a London-based firm, and could expect a salary of more than £6,000 or £7,000 a month after a qualifying period.

But prosecutor David Traynor, appearing on behalf of Lancashire Trading Standards, said that after examining paperwork in relation to the property, it appeared McDonnell did not own the site outright.

And borough planners in Wigan had informed trading standards officials that a planning permission obtained by McDonnell, in December 2013, had now expired.

“The prosecution would want to instruct our own estate agents to obtain a valuation for the land,” added Mr Traynor.

He told the court he was also concerned by a covering letter, issued by McDonnell’s new employers, as it appeared to be poorly written and did not address issues raised by Judge Sycamore,

McDonnell, who is set to be banned as a company director under separate civil proceedings, is awaiting his criminal sentence after admitting to consumer protection offences, and being convicted of further fraud charges by Chorley magistrates.

He left Phyllis Edwards, mother of rugby legend Shaun, and the Chadwick family, with bills of more than £80,000 apiece after carrying out sub-standard work at the their respective homes in Wrightington. In the Edwards’ case he failed to obtain planning permission and the Chadwicks have seen their dream home turned into a half-finished shell.

Michael Balmer, for McDonnell and MM Projects, said some work had been started on the land in question, which may result in the planning permission being extended until this December.

But the defence counsel accepted that the ownership position regarding the land “is not as clear as was advanced on the last occasion and for that I can only apologise to your honour.”

Mr Balmer said his client had also made enquiries with a bridging loan company to see whether he could employ their services to meet any compensation requirements.

Bailing McDonnell for sentence on September 15, Judge Sycamore said he would require firmer evidence requiring the defendant’s salary position, and the adjournment would allow the prosecution to pursue their own land valuations.

“All sentencing options remain open, that includes immediate custody, whatever the outcome of these enquiries might be,” Judge Sycamore told McDonnell.

The builder claimed on his website his firm had ‘25 years experience’. But he later told investigators this actually represented the combined knowhow of all four of his then-employees.