A builder has been ordered to pay more than £17,000 in compensation for defective work valued at just £1,124.

James Brien, 27, of George Lane, South Woodford, appeared at St Albans Crown Court on Monday where he pleaded guilty to three charges of engaging in unfair commercial practices.

Brien was hired by a Potters Bar couple to resurface their driveway, build new patios and replace a flat roof.

He was paid £17,500 for the work - which was estimated to be valued at just £1,124.

The matter was reported to Hertfordshire Trading Standards in February 2018.

An investigation found the replacement flat roof was ill-fitting and unfit for purpose, with inadequate support, waterproofing and drainage.

The paving was unfixed and uneven, with no drainage.

Brien also damaged a neighbour’s wall and fence.

In mitigation, the court was told that Brien had learnt his lesson and was prepared to pay the couple compensation to put things right for them, understanding the difficulty and distress caused. He also pledged to ensure tighter control of his workforce.

The judge also noted that Brien had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity and had not been before a court before for matters such as this.

His Hon Judge Michael Kay QC gave Brien a 16-week suspended prison sentence on Monday. He also ordered him to pay £17,500 in compensation and £500 in costs.

Judge Kay said: “These are very distressing matters for those who contract with builders.

“It’s a matter we all have to face at times, putting our trust in contractors we do not personally know.

“We don’t expect work to be so grossly bad to go beyond diligence and amount to an offence. The works were so botched they had to be done again.”

Hertfordshire County Council’s deputy director of community protection Guy Pratt said: “The facts in this case resulted in the builder breaching the criminal consumer protection law. This was not only a breach of contract between two parties. The trader failed to exercise the professional diligence expected in going about the project, failed to issue cancellation rights and as a result the consumers lost a considerable amount of money with no way to seek redress.

“Consumers are advised to protect themselves by taking great care in researching who they use to carry out home improvements. The process inevitably involves both a financial and emotional investment and it can be a devastating blow when aspirations do not materialise.

“Before undertaking jobs, builders need to ensure that they can carry out their work with competence, solvency and a willingness to correct any bad workmanship.”

For further information on finding a trustworthy trader, or to report a trader, visit www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/trustedtraders.