The businessmen involved in the Bickerton affair have been banned from holding directorships for 18 years. Not enough say some subcontractors
It was a story that took over my life briefly as a reporter for Building over five years ago. A simple tale of how a family run, regional contractor with a 100-year history was acquired by a group of businessman as part of a complex set of negotiations.
The men in question set about asset-stripping the company until all of its key and loyal staff were forced out leaving it to run into the ground, with dozens of angry subcontractors left thousands of pounds out of pocket.
Furthermore, it wasn't the first time they had done it. Just this week a DTI investigation concluded that two of the men involved, Bill Berry and John Aviss, were disqualified from being company directors for a total of 18 years for their part in the collapse of a sister company to Bickerton, MEA group, an M&E contractor.
At the beginning of the investigation the serious fraud office ploughed thousands of pounds worth of man-hours and resources into investigating the downfall of Bickerton and Mea as part of a two-year investigation.
However, much to the dismay of the subbies involved the police decided not to pursue the prosecution due to lack of evidence, and as the men involved didn’t appear to financially benefit from the situation.
A couple of subcontractors involved are however still angry. Their pleas for action against the men having being heard by the government regulator having fallen on deaf ears.
“Why is it only an 18 years disqualification for both of them? And why was it not for a life ban?” asks one. “And why did the police take so long to realise they didn’t have a case against them?” screams another.
All valid points but as one source close to the case puts it: “Searching for answers five years later is not going to get any of their money back, but if and when these men ever do return to our industry they must be monitored very closely.”