Norfolk Trading Standards has defended its decision to pursue a court case against the directors of a telemarketing company for allegedly carrying out a £9m fraud, despite all three being found not guilty at Norfolk Crown Court this week.
The case, which started eight years ago and has been the subject of two trials, is claimed to have cost £195,354 in prosecution costs alone.
A fourth defendant, qualified chartered accountant Geoffrey Good, was found not guilty of two counts of conspiracy to defraud in the first trial, which took place last year. However, the jury could not reach an agreement on his co-accused – Joe Lloyd, Kevin Thurston, and Daniel Pye – sparking a retrial this January.
The trio were charged with two counts of conspiracy to defraud customers as part of an enterprise involving a “web of companies” which it was alleged misled consumers into signing up for deals to stop nuisance calls, as well as satellite warranties. Norfolk Trading Standards launched its investigation in 2009.
But following a nine-week retrial, all the defendants have walked free.
A statement released by the trio said: “We have had to embark on one of the most arduous journeys of our entire lives. We have always maintained our absolute innocence at all times, and on Tuesday our innocence was proven, unequivocally, in a court of law.
“We would like to thank those that stood by us throughout, our legal teams, and the court process itself, for ensuring that justice has prevailed. We feel that the actions of Norfolk Trading Standards have been wholly inappropriate throughout, and they should be answering some tough questions as to their complete disregard for the public purse.
“Our businesses were, unfortunately, unable to survive the process and therefore, over 60 local people have lost their jobs thanks to the actions of trading standards. We are not dishonest, never were dishonest, and never will be.
“We have lost everything fighting this, and our innocence has finally been proven. We now look forward to putting this nightmare behind us and moving on with our lives.”
A spokesman for Norfolk County Council said: “We felt there were good grounds in the public interest to suggest that the defendants had a case to answer in the courts after receiving hundreds of complaints about their company’s service from Norfolk and UK residents.
“However we fully respect the Jury’s verdict and we will review the judgement carefully and consider our response regarding not only this case, but similar cases in the future.
“The Trading Standards team works tirelessly to protect Norfolk residents from a wide range of issues including illegal tobacco, scams, fraud, and even animal welfare, and of the 12 previous cases taken to court over the last two years all have resulted in outcomes in favour of the Service. We are grateful to those who took to the stand to tell the court about their experiences in this case, in spite of the verdict not being in our favour on this occasion.”
Telemarketing chief denies mis-selling in £9m retrial