Man charged with fraud after coating form investigated

A Liverpool man has been charged with fraud, following an investigation into the misuse of forms designed to identify the fire hazard of cladding.

Merseyside Police said Thomas Michael Clarke, 33, of Knowsley Lane, Prescot, will appear in court on August 3.

A 19-month investigation was triggered after residents of high-rise apartment buildings reported that 88 EWS1 forms were signed by an unauthorized person between June and November 2020.

The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau passed these resident reports, which involved people in areas such as London and South Wales, to Merseyside Police.

Clarke was charged with fraud by false representation. Police did not provide further details of their investigation.

EWS1 forms were introduced by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) following the Grenfell Tower tragedy as a means for a building owner to confirm to assessors and lenders that an exterior wall system or attachments had been “assessed by an appropriate expert for the likelihood of proportionate corrective action to address the risk of fire”.

RICS said it had its own investigation into the matter and could not comment at this time.

On the broader issue of the potential misuse of liner advice, the body pointed to a section of its website which states: ‘We have been advised that unqualified persons may be signing EWS1 forms.

“RICS condemns anyone who uses the current situation for their own personal gain, with potentially dangerous consequences for residents, and urges that any further information in this regard be made available to Trading Standards and RICS as appropriate. .”

The correct checks have since been carried out in each case, according to Merseyside Police, and given the appropriate clearance.

The latest edition of the EWS1 form – which was introduced earlier this year, after the time of the alleged fraud – requires the signatory to confirm that they have “used reasonable skill and care in investigating […] primary materials for exterior walls”.

Where exterior walls are deemed unlikely to support combustion, the signatory must be a qualified member of an appropriate professional body in the construction industry and have “expertise to identify relevant materials in the exterior wall and accessories, and whether the fire resistant cavity barriers and firestop measures have been installed correctly”.

However, where combustible materials are present and repair work is required, a higher level of expertise is required of the signatory, such as, but not limited to, full membership in the Institution of Fire Engineers.

The RICS website states: “UK banks and building societies have strong measures in place to protect people against fraud, which would detect any suspicious EWS1 forms, but we encourage everyone to world to verify the signatory on a form with the institution of the professional. If a RICS member completes your EWS1 form, you can check their membership with us on our website.

The website adds: ‘There is a list of suggested organizations to contact for fire experts at the source. This list is not exhaustive nor does it constitute an endorsement or endorsement by RICS, UKF or BSA, and other bodies with relevant expertise may be able to assist.

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