'BUILDER WHO OVERCHARGED TO LOSE THOUSANDS'

By Robin Turner

Wales Online – 16 January 2008

A builder who overcharged the 94-year-old father of an MP by more than £5,000 has been told by a judge it will cost him nearly £30,000. Paul Grey, 55, of Brynhyfryd, Swansea, has been told to pay back £7,500, plus interest, as well as costs which could amount to as much as £20,000.

Swansea-born Shadow Defence Minister Dr Julian Lewis, Conservative MP for New Forest East, was outraged when Grey quoted his father Sam £1,800 for work on his Victorian home in Uplands, Swansea, in 2004, then charged him £7,500 in cash. He began building a civil case against 57-year-old Grey and taped an abusive late night phone call the builder made to the MP in which he admitted gaining thousands of pounds in work from pensioners.

When the case got under way at the Cardiff Civil Justice Centre last week Grey said he was ashamed of the late night call but was adamant it was drunken bravado only done to “annoy” the MP and the things he said were not true. But Judge Patrick Curran QC in his judgment said although he accepted Grey had been “disinhibited” by drink, he did not accept his intoxication led him to make false admissions.

Dr Lewis said:

“His own arrogance was his downfall. He admitted he had done this sort of thing to other elderly people but then he told me, ‘There is nothing you can ******* do about it.’ Unfortunately for him, there was.”

Judge Curran ordered Grey to pay back the cash he took from Sam Lewis, a retired former tailor, plus interest – a total of £9,762. He was also ordered to pay £12,000 towards the costs of the case as soon as possible with the balance being paid later on.

The MP judged yesterday the costs would be “around the £20,000 mark”. Dr Lewis, 60, said:

“My father had dementia and a terrible short- term memory. If my father wasn’t suffering from dementia he would not have been vulnerable enough for this to have happened.”

The court heard he handed over a total of £7,500 in eight cash payments to Grey, more than four times the original agreed price. Grey told the court he believed other people had taken the cash from Mr Lewis. But in his judgment, Judge Curran said:

“In my view the defendant alone was responsible for the appropriation of the money.”

Swansea West MP Alan Williams said:

“Dr Lewis not only did a great service for his father, he did a great service for elderly people living in Swansea. It shows that they can take people to court and win if they feel they have been taken advantage of.”

Dr Lewis said:

 “My father worked as a tailor and worked hard for every penny he earned. I felt enormous anger that someone came along in the evening of his life and took away not hundreds but thousands of pounds belonging to him.

“My father’s family came here from Eastern Europe and this was done in part as a thank you to the people of Swansea who have been so welcoming to us over the years.”

Dr Lewis’s father now lives in a nursing home.