Daily reporting of the courts forms an important part of the UK’s open justice system, that justice can be seen to be done. Key benefits of open justice include ensuring public confidence and respect in democracy and the administration of justice, as well as deterring people from committing crimes and thereby the details of those crimes becoming public knowledge.
Bristol Live reports daily from Bristol Crown Court, and also sits in on some cases at magistrates’ courts, which tend to deal with less serious crimes. You can sign up for our new Bristol’s Court Insider newsletter for the latest court and crime news – from arrests to trials and sentencings.
Listed below are some of the convicted fraudsters who have recently faced justice at Bristol Crown Court, and the jail terms they received. Read more about why we publish defendants’ names and addresses here.
Michael Black, 10 years
Michael Black, 56, fraudulently pocketed around £1.2million from three businesses he worked for between 2010 and 2019. Black had been trusted with company finances at three different businesses and on more than 400 occasions abused his position to transfer money from their accounts to his own. He disguised the transfers so they didn’t appear to go directly to him.
In addition, while working at a bathroom company in Somerset between 2010 and 2016, he used credit cards and wrote more than 200 company cheques for personal expenditure. He also paid himself illegitimate expenses, which came to £36,000.
The money he obtained was used to buy and extend an expensive family home, pay large mortgage payments and buy family holidays abroad and expensive cars. On April 22, he was sentenced at Bristol Crown Court to 10 years and nine months in prison.
John Ward, two years
A banned “cowboy builder” used false names to dishonestly secure work. John Ward was prohibited from trading under a Criminal Behaviour Order (CBO).
Bristol Crown Court heard that, after he registered under a false name on the Rated People website, people engaged him for jobs and he charged high prices for shoddy work. Ward, 35, of Moorland Road in Burnley, pleaded guilty to engaging in activity in breach of the CBO as well as fraud.
Judge Michael Longman jailed him for two years. He told Ward: “Cowboy builders and rogue traders like you are a menace. You leech on decent members of the public, fleecing them of their money, sometimes their savings, leaving them in need of further expenditure for repair work.”
Michael Coffey, two years and two months and Richard Coffey, 18 months
Rogue roofers who ripped off people in Wiltshire have been jailed. Brothers Michael and Richard Coffey scammed £44,600 from people for their poor quality work which required customers to spend more money to put right.
Michael Coffey, 29, and Richard Coffey, 25, both of Northwood Park, Old Gloucester Road, Winterbourne, both pleaded guilty to participating in a fraudulent business. They were directors of MRC Roofing and Building Ltd, Bristol Crown Court heard in February.
The Recorder of Bristol His Honour Judge Peter Blair QC jailed Michael for two years and two months and Richard for 18 months. The judge said: “There was detrimental impact on the victims, financially and otherwise.”
Gareth Barrett, 21 months
Backwell man Gareth Barrett stole the identity of a former Army officer with the same name as him to commit fraud. And it proved a “deeply disturbing” ordeal for his victim, a court heard.
Barrett, 40, of Moorfield Road, pleaded guilty to five charges of fraud as well as making an untrue statement for the purposes of obtaining a passport and insurance. He also admitted possessing an identity document with improper intent.
Judge Euan Ambrose jailed him for 21 months. He made a deprivation order involving identity documents and all documents seized relating to the complainant Gareth Edward Barrett. A victim surcharge of £140 was imposed.
Rhian Keys, 16 months
When a pilates teacher ripped off a student she was spared immediate jail. But, having elaborately tried to avoid two speeding tickets, Rhian Keys is now starting a 16-month prison sentence.
Keys was caught speeding on the M48 near Bristol in February 2019 and on the A24 in Surrey in November 2019. Bristol Crown Court heard the second offence put her in breach of a 16-month suspended jail term handed to her for two counts of fraud.
Keys, 37, pleaded guilty to two charges of doing an act intended to pervert the course of justice. She appeared for sentence today (March 15, 2022).
Sending her to prison Judge James Patrick told an emotional Keys: “There is a background of dishonesty. You are an arrogant, dishonest, manipulative woman.”
Sign up for our new Bristol’s Court Insider newsletter for the latest court and crime news – from arrests to trials and sentencings