Birkenhead couple sentenced for unlicensed money lending
A couple from Birkenhead who operated an illegal money lending business have each been sentenced to 10 months in custody, suspended for two years.
Phillip Lowther, 51 and his wife Linda aged 59 both of Alverstone Avenue were investigated by the England Illegal Money Lending Team working in partnership with Wirral Borough Council. They pleaded guilty to illegal money lending at a hearing at Liverpool Crown Court on Friday (14th Feb). In addition to the suspended sentence, they have been ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work.
The pair came to the attention of the team via their confidential hotline, and had been lending money illegally since their Consumer Credit Licence lapsed in August 2008.
When officers executed a warrant at their home in June 2013, they found evidence of the illegal business including payment cards and books. Further evidence was found at a storage unit, which they hired.
A total of 256 loan agreements were found spanning July 2010 to June 2013. They had at least 45 customers and tended to charge much more interest than they stated in their documentation. A charge of £70 was made, on average, for each £100 loan.
Their own records showed they received more than £76,000 since their licence lapsed.
Upon sentencing His Honour Judge Lewis said “legislation is designed to protect the financially vulnerable who need money and have no prospect of getting it elsewhere. This is the evil of the case- there is a need to protect the least able. The court has to send a message to those who indulge in this trading.”
Cllr Brian Kenny, Wirral Council Cabinet member for Environment and Sustainability, said: “Whilst there was no suggestion that intimidation was a factor in this case, the fact is the couple were unlicensed and lending money illegally; the people borrowing money therefore had no protection and in many cases were repaying their loan at a higher rate of interest than their documentation stated.
“Working with the Illegal Money Lending Team, our Trading Standards staff will always take action against loan sharks, regardless of whether or not they use threats or intimidation.”
Tony Quigley Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team said “We are continuing to stop illegal lenders in their tracks and bring them to justice through the courts. Lenders are licensed to protect consumers, but the Lowther’s were operating outside of the law and profiting at the expense of their victims. We would urge anyone who has been affected by an illegal money lender, or knows of someone who has to speak to us in confidence on 0300 555 2222, as we can help. ”
Nationally the Stop Loan Shark Project has secured 300 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading more than 190 years worth of custodial sentences. They have written off almost £42 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 23,000 victims.
To report a loan shark:
Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222
Text ‘loan shark + your message’ to 60003
Private message us on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject
For more information about this case contact Sarah-Jane Lynch, Illegal Money Lending Team communications officer, on 0121 693 1030 or 07881617119. To speak to the National Trading Standards Board with a more general enquiry please contact the Trading Standards Institute press office on 0845 6089430.
Notes to editors
The National Trading Standards Board (NTSB) is a group of senior and experienced local government heads of trading standards, representing all trading standards services across England and Wales. The Board has been set up by the Government as part of changes to the consumer protection landscape and an enhanced role for trading standards.
NTSB provides leadership influence, support and resources to help combat consumer and business detriment locally, regionally and nationally.
The Stop Loan Sharks Project consists of three Illegal money lending teams in England, Scotland and Wales. The NTSB has responsibility for the England and Wales Illegal Money Lending Teams that are hosted by Birmingham City Council and Cardiff Council. There are separate arrangements in place in Scotland.
Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured 300 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to more than 190 years-worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £42 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 23,000 people.
The Illegal Money Lending Teams in England and Wales work in partnership with local Trading Standards Authorities in their related countries. They consist of specialist officers who investigate and prosecute illegal money lending and related activity and LIAISE officers who support victims and raise awareness of the dangers of borrowing from illegal money lenders.
DATE: 18 February 2014