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Local car dealership fined over £17,000 for selling ‘death traps’

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A LOCAL car dealer must pay over £17,000 in fines after he sold a car to a 22-year-old man that was described as a ‘death trap’.

William Frederick Howlin of Motec Autos, pleaded guilty to charges of being a trader who engaged in commercial practice which is a misleading action containing false information, producing an unsafe product on the market and fraud by false representation.

Magistrates at Haverfordwest Law Court on Wednesday (Jan 30) heard how William Howlin appeared before the court for offering up for sale ‘dangerous vehicles’, and attempted to ‘limit consumer rights’ when doing so by erecting ‘sold as seen’ signs around the forecourt.

Magistrates were told that in February last year, 22-year-old Glenn Alcock, who looks ‘much younger’ than his age, attended Motec Autos to look at an Audi with his mum. He took the Audi for a test drive and noticed that the engine light was on and there was a knocking sound, but was assured by Howlin that it would be sorted.

Mr Alcock worked as IT Technician at this newspaper until last year.

22-year-old Glenn Alcock: Magistrates were told he looked ‘much younger’ than his age

Mr Alcock proceeded to purchase the car, but continued to experience problems with it. He got back in touch with Howlin at Motec and said he wanted a partial refund or £500 for the part to fix the car, however Howlin refused, and said he was welcome to view other cars they had in stock.

Mr Alcock had seen a Mazda MX5 on the forecourt, and when he showed interest in it, he said Howlin tried to ‘put him off’ buying the Mazda, telling him the boot would be too small to fit his drum kit inside. However, the court heard that Mr Alcock liked the car, and wanted to purchase it.

Magistrates were told by Pembrokeshire County Council’s prosecutor, that Mr Alcock researched Mazda MX5s online, and found that there was a common rust problem with this particular make and model of car.

When he asked Howlin about any rust damage, he informed Mr Alcock that there was some surface rust, but it was fine. He claimed to have done the MOT on the car himself and there were no advisories.

Further down the line, Mr Alcock was informed by an employee that the Mazda MX5 he had purchased had been returned by a previous owner 12 months before. Following this, he took the car to Howarth Motors to be checked over.

He received a call from the garage asking him to come in to speak to them in person, where he was told that the car was ‘too dangerous to drive away’.

Mr Alcock called the Citizens Advice Bureau, who contacted Trading Standards. Mr Alcock was then refunded.

The court heard that there was so much corrosion on the underside of the car that when it was tapped with a screwdriver the rust ‘disintegrated’. Howarth Motors said that it was the ‘worst mechanical condition they had seen that had passed its MOT’.

Jenny Tree from Pembrokeshire County Council looked into previous MOT certificates for the Mazda MX5, and found that there had been advisories in the past regarding the rust. In May 2017, the car was bought by a man who purchased the car for £1,195. He said that he wanted to have it serviced, but didn’t get around to doing it until the August.

When he had it serviced, he was told that not to drive the car because it was a ‘death trap’, and a towing truck had to be arranged to transport it back. Mark Hicks of Motec offered him a refund and took the car back.

Ms Tree contacted Dave Ford, the person who had conducted the service on the car in August 2017. He said he was ‘horrified’ at the ‘heavy corrosion’ on the car’s wishbone, which had it come into contact with a curb would have ‘snapped’.

The court also heard that the calipers were only working on one piston as the others had seized.

The Mazda was examined by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), who said the defects were so severe that it should not have passed its MOT. Howlin said the car must have ‘hit something’ which had come off to reveal the damage, however, the VSA had noticed an underseal had been applied over the rust. Howlin then turned to accuse Howarth Motors, saying it must have been ‘hammered’ by them, but there was ‘no evidence’ of this.

The offside rear suspension components were dangerous and not roadworthy, and the Mazda was, all in all, ‘a danger to the user and other road users’.

The court heard that the underseal on the bottom of the car had been applied in what looked like an ‘attempt to camouflage’ the extent of the corrosion. The car was also noted during a brake test to be weighing in at 900kg, which is a ‘low weight’ for the make and model for the car.

When documents were reviewed, it was found that in July 2017, the automated brake test showed it weighed 1.182kg, which is the expected weight. This was described as an ‘anomaly’.

An inspection was carried out at Motec Autos by the DVSA, who were met by Mark Hicks. The court heard that Hicks seemed ‘agitated’ that they were around the back of the premises, and said that the only vehicles that were up for sale were the cars situated at the front. However, the DVSA noted that there were prices in the windows, and therefore they must be up for sale.

Six cars were selected at random for inspection, three of which were unworthy of being on the road, in particular a Vauxhall Corsa.

Pembrokeshire County Council’s prosecutor told the court that car dealerships are heavily complained about to trade centres and 26% of complaints are related to the safety of the cars.

Howlin’s defence solicitor, Mark Owen, said: “Howlin pleaded guilty on the first occasion and the case was adjourned to today two weeks ago. From the point back in May the intent was to deal with the issues constructively.

“When we first attended an interview, it’s clear that what is an important aspect of MOTs is that they are of gold standard. There are levels to MOTs that you can rely on them, but it’s not always the case. It’s not what you would expect it to be – it’s more the bare minimum.

“That was part of our argument. What became clear was this vehicle had been identified as having defects, and Howlin failed to take proper action. We have to accept information conveyed that it wasn’t good enough, and certain actions were taken immediately.

“The issues were erased with the young man, and he was refunded and an apology was given.”

Mr Owen added that the garage is a ‘heavy regulated’ part of the industry, and said: “What he may have done 30 years ago he can’t do today. He is not known to the court before, and he does have a good reputation in this area.

“His knowledge has served him well, but changes have occurred with regulations and he has failed to keep up with them. You can see from the paperwork he did take certain actions.

“He left other parties to deal with day to day sales, and there are questions of how things are passed through.”

Mr Owen continued: “The offences are accepted, the most serious being the Mazda MX5. 12 months before it had been returned and it wasn’t safe.

“This is an isolated incident. For over 38 years he has been in the trade without indication of flaw or serious problems. He wasn’t keeping up with professional developments and was failing to recognise the world had changed. It happens in farming sometimes. He is not a dodgy dealer. he wants to contribute to the community.

“He only feels remorse and shame. He will suffer reputational damage, however good his reputation has been in the past. His reputation will be damaged because he needs to build up trust again.”

Mr Owen finished, saying: “It’s going to take a great deal of time to put it right.”

Magistrates imposed fines, prosecution costs and victim surcharge of £6145 in total against William Howlin, and a further £11,215 against Motec Autos – £17,360 all together, which he must pay £500 per month for each offence.

He was also given a community order, with the requirement of completing 150 hours of unpaid work.

Mr Howlin told the Herald: “I disagree there were signs saying ‘sold as seen’ on the forecourt.

“I did not offfer Mr Alcock a partial refund, only a partial exchange on the car.”

Mr Howlin went on to deny that he told Mr Alcock that the car hit something: “I think the car must have been damaged at a third party garage.”

News

Former Cardigan Castle director sentencing delayed

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THE SENTENCING of a former director of Cardigan Castle who has pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and theft totalling over £40,000 has been delayed.

Former director, Jac Davies, pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and theft was due to be sentenced on Wednesday (May 4) at Swansea Crown Court – but has now been delayed.

Davies who held the £40,000 a year post fraudulently obtained £33,098.75 and stole a further £7,932.97 from the award winning restoration project..

Davies held his position at Cardigan Castle from September 2017 to November 2019.

The defendant has pleaded guilty to fraudulently obtaining £4,143.20 from the castle on December 21, 2017.

Again Davies admitted to fraudulently obtaining £28,955.55 between February 4, 2019 and November 3, 2019.

Two further charges of theft were also admitted – one charge of  theft from the castle of £1,908.18 between May 2, 2018 and May 24, 2019 and a further charge of theft from Cardigan Castle Enterprises to the sum of £6,024.79.

Dyfed-Powys Police conducted a year long investigation after being contacted by the castle board of directors.

Financial discrepancies were identified during financial monitoring.

An internal investigation was launched and Davies left his position within the castle in October 2019 following a disciplinary process.

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Dyfed-Powys Police criticised for failing to record thousands of crimes

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A SHOCKING new report says that Dyfed-Powys Police failed to record thousands of crimes, despite being told to improve two-and-a-half years ago.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) found the force had documented just 87.6% of reported crime – meaning upto 4,400 crimes are not recorded each year.

The report highlighted that of violent crimes, 85.4% were registered, which means about 2,400 went unrecorded, some involving domestic abuse or the vulnerable.

The force said it had “plans in place to improve its crime recording.”

HMIC reached their conclusion by comparing the number of reports to the police with recorded numbers. About 35,900 were reported.

In 2018, HMIC found that our local force was too often not recording crimes. And in 2014 it was reported the force was one of the worst in the UK at recording crimes. 

Dyfed-Powys Police T/Chief Constable, Claire Parmenter was quick to respond to the shocking finding. In a statement emailed to The Herald she said: “We accept the concerns and recommendations published by HMICFRS in respect of crime data integrity. As an organisation, we are firmly committed to supporting victims and putting them at the heart of everything we do. The force has plans in place to improve its crime recording and I am determined we will get this right.

“Since the previous HMICFRS inspection in 2018 we have made significant improvements in our response to Domestic Abuse victims, creating the vulnerability desk which provides real time intelligence to officers attending incidents of Domestic Abuse and ensuring that safeguarding arrangements are in place through a new partnership hub. Recent audits in April evidenced we were achieving a 98% compliance for the completion of risk assessments. This ensures that every Domestic Abuse victim is looked after and kept safe.

“We have a programme of change already in place which will deliver significant process and cultural change. The elements of this programme will improve the forces’ ability to manage demand, support victims, improve the timeliness and quality of investigations and supervision of crime. HMICFRS were unable to take this project into account as part of this inspection. Delivery plans commence next month (June 2021).

“Since the date of this inspection, we are already seeing improvements as a result of the swift additional action we have taken, achieving 100% crime recording compliance in respect of anti-social behaviour for February and March 2021 which is positive.”

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Firefighters extinguish blaze at St Catherine’s Fort, Tenby

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A CONTROLLED wood fire earlier in the day caused a fire to break out on Tenby’s St Catherine’s Island on Thursday (May 6).

Heat that was caused by a wood fire earlier in the day caused a ignition on the unburned wood nearby that was needed to be extinguished by Tenby fire crew.

Taking to their Facebook page, St Catherine’s island thanked Tenby Fire Brigade for their assistance.

No serious damage was caused by the incident.

The spokesperson said: “A massive shout out to Tenby Fire Brigade last night who were called to the Island last night after we left following a long day working on the Fort and burning off all the old flooring, having now replaced it all. 

“We had spent at least half an hour making sure that our controlled barrel fire was out. Unfortunately the ground was so hot it transferred to the rest of the unburned wood. 

“Thanks to our amazing local Fire Service, they were on hand to help us out and no damage occurred.”

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