A BUSINESSMAN from Bolton - who launched a private prosecution after a firm fell victim to an £80,000 fraud - has secured a landmark legal ruling.

Letting agent Steven Laycock was informed Greater Manchester Police could not probe his cheating business partner Timothy Shinners, who had pocketed deposits paid to Horwich-based Platinum Properties, because of 'austerity' pressures, the High Court was told.

Shinners, who had spent some of the money on family holidays and his stag weekend, was eventually jailed for three years by Judge Graham Knowles QC at Preston Crown Court, after being convicted of five fraud offences in a private case.

Judge Knowles ordered that Mr Laycock's legal costs should be paid for out of central funds, at the conclusion of the case.

His specialist private prosecution lawyers, Edmonds Marshall McMahon (EMM), estimated that figure at £427,909.

But the Senior Courts Costs Office calculated costs at only £150,000 and would only allow £200,000 plus £40,000 VAT after an appeal was lodged on Mr Laycock's behalf.

This decision was later confirmed by a Costs Judge, Master Jason Rowley, leading to a direct appeal to the High Court.

Rupert Cohen, for Mr Laycock's firm Fuseon, which traded as Platinum Properties, said Mr Layock had been left out of pocket to the tune of more than £180,000 and had been forced to take out a business loan.

Questions were raised regarding why Mr Laycock had instructed London-based EMM, incurring additional costs, rather than a Northern legal firm.

Ruling in Mr Laycock's favour, Mr Justice Lane said: "Mr Laycock had done everything that could reasonably be expected of a person in his position. He had made enquiries of his solicitors.

"He researched the matter online and did not find firms offering private prosecution services for fraud, who were more local than EMM."

Father-of-two Shinners, from Chorley, was also disqualified for eight years as a company director by Judge Knowles as a result of the private prosecution.

Mr Justice Lane, ordering that the costs figure be reconsidered at a later hearing, added: "The financial effect upon Mr Laycock and his company has been extremely profound.

"Furthermore, not to disturb the decisions in this case would risk the perpetuation of an erroneous approach to the award of costs in private prosecutions, which in turn risks damaging the position of private prosecutions in the constitutional framework.

"In particular, private prosecutions would be in danger of becoming the preserve of those with deep pockets."

Shinners' trial was told he had even rented a Platinum home for three years, using company funds.A BUSINESSMAN working at a Bolton estate agent defrauded the company out of £80,000 to pay for purchases including family holidays, his stag weekend and a wedding suit.

Preston’s Sessions House Court heard former estate agent Timothy Shinners, of Rotherwick Avenue, Chorley, failed to pay people’s deposits into a protection scheme as required by regulations, and spent it in what became an £80,000 fraud when working at Platinum Properties in Horwich.

He cheated his business partner Chris Baron during the six year fraud.

When the fraud came to light, another businessman, Steve Laycock, honoured the deposits Shinners should have protected with £30,000 of his own money -an action praised by judge Graham Knowles.

Shinners has now been jailed for three years as a result of the private prosecution.

The 31-year-old, who is married with two children, was found guilty of two counts of making false representations to cause loss to another, two of making and supplying articles for use in a fraud, and carrying on the business of company with intent to defraud creditors.

When the fraud came to light it was reported by Mr Laycock, but Greater Manchester Police declined to investigate.

Mr Laycock then hired specialist prosecution firm Edmonds Marshall McMahon to advice on whether the case was suitable for private prosecution.

The three week trial heard how Shinners was well aware of his legal obligation to register tenants' deposits with a Tenancy Deposit Scheme and knew that tenant's money was not for him to do with as he wished.

Shinners received a number of deposits into the business and failed to transfer them to the DPS account.

It took the injections of cash by Mr Laycock that allowed the deposits to be registered and protected.

In May 2015 Shinners, formerly of Bolton, forged a number of documents to conceal his fraudulent conduct from his colleagues at Platinum.

It was discovered that Shinners had drawn at least £76,352 in company money over his permitted salary and expense allowance.

Items in his personal expenditure included family holidays, foreign currency transactions, groceries, meals out, his own stag weekend, car insurance and even his wedding suit.

He had also rented a Platinum Property for him and his family, using company funds for three years.

During his trial he attempted to blame others.

The court heard how Shinners abused his position as a director at the company and has now been banned from taking up managerial position at firms for eight years.

Judge Knowles, disqualifying him from being a company director for eight years, said: “You rode roughshod over the protection of tenant’s deposits.

“You and Chris Baron agreed together what each of you would draw from the business and it was not a lot, and he kept to that deal throughout and he thought you kept to that deal – but he and others learned you did not.

“You funded your life, your home and the life of your family from company money regardless of the company’s interest.”

Shinners left the company in 2015.