A NOTORIOUS businessman spared jail for operating while bankrupt has had a court costs order slashed because trade is down after he again appeared on TV’s Cowboy Builders.
Mark Groves, whose South Marston-based Kingswood Group was emblazoned across Swindon Town’s shirts in 2007, was told to cough up £20,000 by a judge last year. But after he was featured on the Channel Five show for a third time last November he said business had dried up, making it impossible to find the cash.
And his legal representative told a judge other customers had also decided not to pay their bills after the show, featuring Melinda Messenger and Dom Littlewood, was aired.
He said because Groves’ household income was just £46,800 it was impossible for him to meet his financial obligations after being put on a community order.
Marcus Bright, whose client lives in a £700,000 house, said: “Mr Groves would like to be earning more. There has been a rather unfortunate history.
“Mr Groves has been pursued by the programme Cowboy Buil-ders. As a consequence, this case was mentioned by Cowboy Builders. Since then he had had cancellation of contracts. He has also had people saying, ‘We’ve seen you on Cowboy Builders and we are not going to pay you’.”
Mr Bright told the court his client draws just £300 a week from the business and his partner £600, meaning the household income is just £900 a week. He said he was currently paying £100 a week towards the court costs, which is all he can afford, and had paid £3,000 since he was sentenced last June.
Judge Tim Mousley QC agreed to reduce the amount he has to pay from £20,000 to £10,000, but said it must be settled by June this year.
Mr Bright said: “That is much appreciated by Mr Groves,” after hearing him make the order.
Groves, now of Camberley, Surrey, admitted taking part in the management of Kingswood PRC Ltd between May 14 and December 19, 2008 while bankrupt. He also pleaded guilty to taking part in the formation and management of Lifestyle Design and Build Ltd between July 15, 2008, and May 15, 2009.
As an undischarged bankrupt he was banned from being a director or acting in management of a company.
But he continued to run the firms, installing ‘puppet directors’ including one bricklayer who found himself liable for the debts when the firm went down And he even set up a new company called Lifestyle Design and Build despite being expressly banned from doing so.
Nigel Fryer, for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, described the offending as “a systemic attempt by Mr Groves to maintain his business, transferring work from Kingswood to Kingswood PRC and ultimately Lifestyle Design and Build in the knowledge he should not engage in management of the company.
“In doing so he involved naive people into becoming directors so he could control them to do his own bidding,” he said.
But Nicholas Syfret QC, defending, said he was trying to save the firms and was not out to ‘defraud’.
Recorder Oba Ngugbe QC imposed a one year community order with 200 hours of unpaid work and did not bar Groves from being a director in the future.
He told him: “On any view, as your counsel has observed, you were the main man in what I have assessed to be the flagrant disregard of the regulations.”
He also told him to pay £20,000 in costs of the prosecution saying he felt the £31,982.30p requested was “on the high side”.
Kingswood PLC sponsored Town for the 2007/2008 seasons, and Groves was involved in photo shoots with manager Paul Sturrock, but the club said they never received the money.