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Headstone mason forced to pay back thousands of pounds to customers

Court orders Judd Memorials owner to return thousands of pounds paid out in deposits

13 July, 2018 — By Samantha Booth

Kenneth Howard failed to properly conduct his business, said the judge

A HOLLOWAY memorial mason has been forced to pay back thousands of pounds he took in deposits from grieving customers.

Kenneth Howard, 81, had been suspended in October 2016 from a national register, preventing his company, Judd Memorials, in Holloway Road, from working in many cemeteries.

However, Mr Howard accepted three new deposits for two gravestones and an inscription. But the customers claim­ed they never saw what they had requested.

Islington Council trading standards department took Mr Howard to court, where he was found guilty under Unfair Trading Regulations.

Layla Dagg paid Mr Howard a £500 deposit in March 2017 for a headstone for her 75-year-old mother’s grave at Enfield Cemetery. She told Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court how she chose Judd Memorials because it would be faster than other masons.

However, in June her mother’s headstone was still not completed and she requested her deposit back. When it wasn’t returned she contacted the Town Hall.

The 52-year-old told the Tribune after the judge’s guilty verdict that the experience had been “devastating” for her, as she was unable to carry out Islamic religious rituals at her mother’s resting place.

“It’s caused a great deal of stress and I’ve been suffering with depression as I haven’t been able to carry out the rituals,” said Ms Dagg, who lives near Upper Street.

“We have been unable to get a headstone until we get this money back.”

All three customers told the court they were never told by Mr Howard, who lives in Essex, that he was suspended from the National Association of Memorial Masons register for a year.

George Zavadsky had handed over a £2,500 deposit, out of a £4,820 final sum, to Mr Howard in October 2016.

He ordered a headstone for his friend’s grave at Islington and St Pancras Cemetery, in East Finchley.

On returning to Judd Memorials in October 2017, when the grave was ready, he said Mr Howard demanded proof of payment. Mr Zavadsky said he never saw the headstone.

Several weeks later he called the cemetery to find out that Mr Howard was suspended and could not get a permit to work on-site.

Mr Zavadsky said: “That was news to me. It would have made a great deal of difference [if I’d have known]. I would have asked for my money back.”

Mr Howard, who has since retired and closed the business, told the court he had a subcontractor who could carry out work for him, but none of the customers were told this.

The pensioner, who has no previous convictions, told the Tribune after the court hearing: “I think it’s absolutely ridiculous. I’ve been in this trade for more than 60 years and it’s the first time ever. It’s made me pack up completely.”

Sentencing him on Tuesday, District Judge Gillian Allison said: “You have failed to appreciate the seriousness of your actions in my view despite warnings.

“This is plainly a case where grief of people, all recently bereaved, has been compounded by your failures to properly conduct your business.”

Howard was ordered to pay £3,637 to the customers, which includes compensation, in the next month. He must also pay £2,000 court costs and £20 victim surcharge.

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