Late submission of evidence means trial of former Business Telecom staff put back until next year.
The Business Telecom scandal rumbles on, after the trial of two of its staff, accused of using misrepresentation to induce customers to sign lengthy and expensive leasing agreements for telephone equipment, has collapsed for the second time.
Christopher Boughton-Fox, the company’s MD, and employee Jonathan Parrish, the defendants in the case, will now not appear again at Norwich Crown Court, where the case is being tried, until October when a pre-trial hearing is to take place.
The court heard several weeks of evidence between the end of April and the beginning of June before the case was brought to a halt.
The trial of the two men will not recommence until January next year, after the length of the trial, originally scheduled for between 4 and 6 weeks, rose to 10 weeks following the late submission of evidence.
Both deny charges of conspiracy to defraud, while two other Business Telecom employees, Neil Debenham and Daniel Cullen, have already pleaded guilty and will be sentenced at the end of the trial.
Jurors fell ill
The trial first collapsed at the beginning of this year after a number of jurors fell ill and the entire jury was eventually dismissed in February.
The prosecution was brought by Norfolk Council’s Trading Standards unit, following an extensive investigation into Business Telecom’s activities, beginning in 2007.
Business Telecom found itself at the centre of the scandal after a wave of complaints came to light, with numerous companies claiming they were duped into signing leasing agreements for telephone equipment.
Representatives from the Great Yarmouth-based company, now in liquidation, are alleged to have approached companies around Norfolk and elsewhere, persuading them to enter into arrangements for the supply of telecommunications systems and accessories by making false representations.
They are accused of making numerous verbal inducements such as promises of annual rebates on calls of more than £1,000 (€1,100), which never materialised, according to those who have made complaints.
Customers claimed they later found promises were not redeemable after signing lease agreements, brokered through intermediary Shire Leasing.
Shire Leasing stated none of its staff were present during meetings where promises were said to have been made and added it was not aware of any verbal arrangements between Business Telecom staff and lease customers.
Agreements were signed for equipment to be provided through the leasing arms a number of large banks, from which customers say they have so far been unable to extricate themselves.
Several companies in Norfolk say they are in fact continuing to pay thousands of pounds in rental on telephone equipment, which they believe is worth much less.
Others added that Business Telecom falsely claimed to be linked to British Telecom as a further inducement.