We’ve never believed that Kevin and Richard set out to de-fraud people in the beginning. They built nice boats and for a time we wanted them to build ours. Kevin lived on a boat, giving him far more experience of how one should work than most boat builders. Where they failed was when they hit financial problems, instead of putting up a hand and admitting it, they tried to make things better. They got a spade and started to dig. By the time we were shown ‘our’ boat Richard had brought in a JCB.
There are questions which remain unanswered, which most probably would have come to light at a trial. At least we should get to know why charges were dropped against Kevin as the CPS are writing to us to explain.
I’m not sure what would have happened with us if Nichola hadn’t got in touch. The day we sat outside the workshop in Ripley looking at two narrowboat shells, neither one ours, we very quickly resigned ourselves that our boat was no more. That was something we would live with, we’d regroup and start again, which is what we did. However with all the statements from the Action Group and our photographs the police believed there was a case and investigated. Who knows if there would have been a case without our photographs.
In the next couple of months there will be more hearings in Derby regarding Richards assets, which will be confiscated and then split between the complainants. We don’t expect to get much, according to the CPS barrister, Richard doesn’t have much.
How do we feel about the sentence? Was it harsh enough? Well, we feel that the Judge summed the case up very well, the circumstances of the case were as we’d suspected. The guidelines for sentencing were pointed out to the Judge by the prosecution, without comment from the defence. The Judge was very clear that he wasn’t being lenient because Richard had pleaded guilty. It was a serious case and a lot of hard work had gone into gathering the evidence. I think that if there hadn’t been a Government guideline suggesting a suspended sentence be given then the sentence would have been custodial. The Government and taxpayer simply can’t afford to put everyone in prison. In some cases we believe it is better that people contribute to the purse rather than empty it by being provided with board and lodgings.
What is wrong, other than the original crime, is the amount of time it has taken to come to court. It took the police longer to put the file together than they originally thought, but that all needed doing. I’d been told that court dates would be set about six months after the CPS had decided to press charges. From being told this to when we attended the sentencing last week it was a total of 33 months! First the case hadn’t been allotted enough time, then the Judge wasn’t available for half the hearing. All this time and all the waiting for everyone. The prosecution barrister was apologetic about it, too much crime not enough courts and judges. In the end the length of time it took to get to court also had a bearing on the sentence. Maybe if it had been heard on the original dates the sentence would have been stronger.
Communication from the court system has been lacking. When first the dates of the case were going to change I had a phone call asking my availability for the next six months, then new dates came though nine months later. I may not have been available! It also seemed that not everyone was informed of each step, several members of the Action Group were not informed of the guilty plea, it was only when people started emailing each other that everyone got to hear.
It has to be said that this was not always the fault of the Witness Care Unit. On Friday whilst we were trying to escape Leeds Lock my phone rang, it was the lady who’d been looking after us. She knew we’d been to the hearing the day before, so could I please tell her what the outcome had been, what sentence had been given. All the information she had been given was a court date in July. For a system you would expect to be faultless there are huge fissures in it. An email later that afternoon was sent out from the WCU to inform all the witnesses of the sentence, I really hope I remembered the details correctly.
We have done our best to stay level headed through out. Sadly what has happened has happened. Nothing can change that, we know we’ll never get all our money back, that is something we’ve always known. As a good friend has said, ‘There are no winners’.
Over the last few years we have learnt several things.
- A contract can be as water tight as you like, but when someone starts to lie that contract won’t help.
- Those people on the Braidbar boat at Crick in 2012 were right, we didn’t want a cruiser stern.
- However they were also wrong. We didn’t want a Trad.
- Having a second hand boat for a few years has saved us getting things wrong with Oleanna.
- It’s disappointing when a Judge doesn’t shout during sentencing.
- Being a boater doesn’t mean that you can turn up to a court with a pen knife in your pocket! Luckily the nice man returned Mick’s Swiss Army knife as we left, this does now leave me trying to find something for his birthday this year.
We now have our wonderful boat, she is far better than she would have been, and we are thankful to be able to live the life we do.
I needed to write about this more than I thought I did. Thank you for baring with me. But now it’s time to leave it all behind, close the chapter and carry on enjoying life.