East Devon builder denies ripping off 11 customers

Exeter Crown Court

Exeter Crown Court. - Credit: Archant

A builder has denied swindling 11 customers and told a jury he intended to finish all their jobs. 

Steven Kemp said he had problems with cash flow, staff problems and illness but never intended to act dishonestly. 

The 54-year-old businessman said he still intends to refund all of the customers when he sells his house. 

He told Exeter Crown Court he was ashamed of some of the excuses he made up to explain him not doing work on time. 

Kemp is on trial accused of fraud. The prosecution said he took £36,000 in deposits while trading as Acclaim Home Improvements and Exeter Windows and Conservatories and kept the money rather than doing the work. 

The customers have all told how they spent weeks or months chasing up Kemp without success and were fobbed off with a string of excuses. 

The excuses included his own illness, staff illness, a fitter who had a breakdown after leaving his wife, wrong measurements, bad weather, and delayed deliveries. 

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The customers, from Exeter, Honiton, Exmouth, Sidmouth, and Topsham, all complained to Devon Trading Standards. 

Kemp, of Anthony Road, Exeter, denies fraudulent trading between May 2017 and September 2017. 

He told the jury he never intended to keep money for work he did not carry out. He said he had traded for 22 years but had problems with cash flow at the time of the complaints. 

He said there had been disputes with some of the complainants and that he had done £20,000 work for one of them before being thrown off the job. 

He said: “I never, ever took money for work I did not intend to do. I never had any criminal intention or any ideas of fraud at all. 

“I had problems with my health and anxiety. I experienced serious cash flow problems. I did make up a lot of excuses but I was trying to keep the business running. 

“I feel absolutely awful about making excuses, absolutely dreadful and terrible. I was hoping to get more work and sort out the cashflow. 

“I intended to refund all the people. I have kept records of all the orders and I’m going to pay these people back when I sell my house. 

“I never, ever intended not to do a job. It was just money problems.” 

He said his finances became even more critical after he was struck down with sepsis in June 2019, which prevented him working for a time.