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Source : 08/08/2002 Northampton Chronicle and Echo

A company owned by the Jesus Army has been ordered to pay out more that 8,000 after a business it runs in Northamptonshire admitted selling customers short.

A suspicious farmer alerted Northamptonshire Trading Standards after he bought five tonnes of sand from Towcester Building Supplies and discovered the load only weighed 4.16 tonnes.

The farmer recruited a friend and helped officers investigate.

Two more lorry loads of sand, which the pair bought from depots in Daventry and Towcester, were found to be under-weight.

Claire Bates, prosecuting, said the company short-changed one of the men even though they suspected he was an undercover trading standards officer.

She said: 'A member of staff asked him (the farmer) if he was from trading standards because they were expecting a visit from someone.'

'The Farmer collected four tonnes of sand which actually weighed about 3.6 tonnes.'

Ian Mason, defending, said the company had specialist weighing equipment but admitted staff training and supervision had slipped and in some cases weights were guessed.

The company pleaded guilty to three charges of selling short measures of sand and three measures of having weighing equipment which was not legally inspected.

The director of the building business, Raymond Gunn, a member of the Jesus Army, also pleaded guilty to six identical charges.

Towcester Building Supplies was fined 7,200 and ordered to pay 1,000 court costs and Gunn was fined a total of 1,800.

Gunn, head of the company which has an annual turnover of 4.15 million, told the Chronicle & Echo after the verdict: 'It's a hefty fine but we are guilty.'

John Campbell, an elder from the Jesus Army based at New Creation Farm in Nether Heyford, added: 'We are very sorry. This incident came about because we were trying to help customers not overload their vehicles by selling sand and gravel by weight rather than volume. We had no intention of giving our customers short measures. We have now changed our method of selling sand and gravel by volume.'

David Hedger, trading standards officer, said: 'The level of fines reflect the fact the company didn't deal with customer's purchases properly and also the fact they previously had advice from trading standards on how to comply with the law, but didn't take any action.'