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Rogue Shropshire gardener who pressured elderly victims is jailed

Telford | News | Published:

A rogue gardener who pressured elderly victims into paying hundreds of pounds for work has been jailed for 21 months.

Arthur Watton, of Kynaston Drive, Wem, browbeat residents into paying him for lopping trees and clearing shrubs in Wem in 2015 – breaching the terms of his anti-social behaviour order.

The 40-year-old was given an indefinite anti-social behaviour order in 2008 at Shrewsbury Crown Court for persistently going door-to-door to touting for business.

Mr Ian Ball, prosecuting, said one of his victims was aged 83 when Watton called at her home on August 2, 2015.

He said: "He told her a conifer need cutting and that the shrubs needed tidying. She declined but he told her it had to be done because it will cause damage to the fence.

"He was very insistent and offered to do it for £80, so she said £60. When they reached £40 she refused. At that point Watton told her that he had started the work already and he wanted £20. When the police were called they found that no work had been done."

"On August 7 Watton targeted another householder. He asked if he could cut climbing plants at the back of the house. She has plants in tubs which grow on trellises. They agreed a price of £20. He then told her one of the plants was diseased and would need cutting back and spraying. He told her the price was now £160. She went to the bank to get the money and on her return could see he had cut one plant which she described as 'hacked'.

"He insisted on being paid cash and would not take a cheque. He told her that the charge was £260 so she went back to the bank for the extra £100 and told the staff what happened. They called the police. She returned and paid him, but the next day she found the cuttings dumped inside her shed. He had not taken them away. She said that he had destroyed her garden."

Watton admitted two counts of breaching the order. He had previously admitted making off without paying for £10 worth of fuel at Esso on the Whitchurch bypass on December 16, 2015, at a previous hearing.

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Miss Naomi Nelson-Cofie, mitigating, said: "He holds his hands up to what he did in 2015. By 2016 he realised this was not a lifestyle he wanted to continue."

Watton breached the order several times including twice in one day in May 2015 at two different homes in Wellington, Telford, for which he was jailed for nine months in 2016. In 2013 he targeted a 97-year-old woman in Market Drayton by banging on her window for which he was jailed for 16 months.

Judge Peter Barrie said: "You have got a very bad record of taking advantage of the elderly."

For breaching the order Watton was jailed for 21 months. He must serve half before being released on licence. For failing to pay for the fuel he was jailed for 28 days concurrently. The 2008 order will continue when he leaves prison.

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