Steven Cockerill buys and sells motor vehicles as the proprietor of Idle Motor Co in Shipley, West Yorkshire. One such vehicle was a Volkswagen Transporter. Mr Cockerill advertised the van for sale on eBay Classifieds. Within the listing, Mr Cockerill specified:
- That the van had been independently inspected.
- That the van is an “Immaculate faultless vehicle… Loads of bills and service history.”
- “Faultless vehicle throughout”.
These assertions were lies.
On Saturday 30th January 2021, our client Mr Townley paid Mr Cockerill a £200 deposit and asked him to have the van put through an MOT test.
On Monday 1st February, Mr Cockerill informed Mr Townley that the van had been dropped off for an MOT test.
On Tuesday 2nd February, Mr Cockerill somehow obtained an MOT certificate for the van. It should not have been possible for the van to have passed the tests in the condition in which Mr Cockerill sold it.
On 7th February, Mr Townley attended Mr Cockerill’s premises. The van was taken for a test drive, but Mr Cockerill insisted on driving, meaning Mr Townley was not afforded the opportunity to properly test the vehicle. Nevertheless, all looked well, and Mr Townley paid Mr Cockerill by credit card to Idle Motor Co, although it’s important to note that Mr Cockerill was most reluctant to allow payment by credit card.
Somewhat unusually, Mr Cockerill locked up his unit and left, before Mr Townley drove the van away.
But the reason for this quick getaway became obvious almost immediately; upon driving the van, Mr Townley noted that the speedometer was not working. The fuel gauge behaved erratically when he put fuel into the van. And, a short time later, it became clear that the wipers didn’t work as they should.
It was now clear to Mr Townley that the van was not “faultless” as Mr Cockerill had stated.
Mr Townley contacted Mr Cockerill, resulting in Mr Cockerill refunding £250 in order to pay for repairs to the speedometer, wipers, and fuel gauge. This was on the condition that, if the repairs cost more, Mr Cockerill would pay the difference.
But the revelations didn’t stop there. Subsequently, Mr Townley and mechanics at his local VW specialist discovered a dangerous fault with the ABS. This ought to have been tested by the MOT centre, for which the van would have failed.
The DVSA has now been informed of the fraudulently obtained MOT certificate, and the Agency will doubtless conduct its own enquiry.
It transpired that three of the warning lights on the instrument clocks had been covered by electrical tape, behind the dash. When this was removed, warning lights were illuminated, one of which was the ABS light. This is evidence of blatant dishonesty on Mr Cockerill’s part.
Mr Townley attempted to phone Mr Cockerill on 9th and 10th February. However, Mr Cockerill had blocked Mr Townley’s number; further evidence of his dishonesty and hope to escape the consequences. If there was an innocent explanation, for example if Mr Cockerill had also been defrauded, he would have had every reason to co-operate with Mr Townley.
When Mr Townley withheld his number, he managed to speak to Mr Cockerill. He offered to pay a further £250 for a sensor to be replaced, claiming that the part would cost only £90 or less. Mr Cockerill’s willingness to pay significantly more indicates that he was aware he had acted dishonestly and hoped to avoid the consequences of his actions.
Unsurprisingly, Mr Townley was not inclined to accept Mr Cockerill’s offer. Mr Townley instead asked Mr Cockerill whether he would be prepared to take back the van and issue a refund. Mr Townley communicated this to Mr Cockerill on 12th February. Mr Cockerill did not respond.
In desperation, Mr Townley instructed us.
Subsequent enquiries with the van’s previous owner, Mrs Whelan, have confirmed that the vehicle was not in the condition described when she sold it to Mr Cockerill.
What we did
We prepared the evidence and applied to the court for a summons.
Mr Cockerill did not attend the first hearing, and a warrant was issued for his arrest, to which he surrendered before the police arrested him.
Mr Cockerill pleaded guilty, and was sentenced on 29th October:
- Mr Cockerill was made subject to a curfew. For six weeks he had to stay in from 9pm to 7am, monitored by a tag fitted to his ankle.
- Mr Cockerill must also pay the full costs of £4,674, meaning that Mr Townley will recover all of his costs.
How we can help you as private prosecution solicitors
Do you need the services of private prosecution solicitors? Our firm is one of the few in England and Wales with specialist experience bringing private criminal prosecutions. To discuss your case and discover how we can help, get in touch today or call us directly on 0121 201 3765.
Do you think private prosecutions are only for the wealthy? Find out more here.