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[26 SEP 00] CRIMES, FIRES & ACCIDENTS
Garage Obstructed Trading Standards Inquiry

The boss of a Kenilworth garage has been fined £10,000 for obstructing trading standards officers doing their job.

Martin Holton, director of Selitar Limited, trading as Hillcrest Motor Company of Kenilworth pleaded guilty yesterday to two offences of obstructing a Trading Standards officer.

He was fined the statutory maximum of £5,000 per offence at Mid-Warwickshire Magistrates court.

Costs of £10,000 were also awarded following a successful prosecution by Warwickshire County Councilís trading standards service.

Officers received a complaint from a consumer who had bought a green Montego diesel estate, advertised with power steering, in 1995 from Hillcrest.

But the customer later realised the vehicle did not have power steering and complained, without success, to Mr Holton.

The garage boss maintained the consumer had been mistaken, and that he had not purchased the vehicle advertised with power steering, but an identical one without this feature.

When trading standards officers investigated, Mr Holton tried to convince them the vehicle advertised with power steering did exist. 

He showed them a stock book with details of a vehicle with the same colour and description and featuring power steering.

When pressed, Mr Holton then produced an accident-damaged green Montego estate with power steering. He maintained this was this Ďother carí.

This car had had its identifying numbers removed after it came into Mr Holtonís possession.

Trading standards officers were later able to prove that the stock book entry was false.

They also showed the Ďother carí had not only been acquired at a later date by Mr Holton but discovered its true identity with help from a police vehicle expert, proving there was no second car.

These two incidents formed the two offences for obstruction and Mr Holton pleaded guilty.

John Saunders QC represented Mr Holton and provided the court with mitigating circumstances.

He said the traumatic experience of a prison term Mr Holton had served for other offences relating to cars, may have behind his motive for these actions. He also said the complainant had been difficult to deal with.
  

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CWN / Crimes, Fires & Accidents / 26 Sep 00
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