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Winchester man hit with £100K bill for running illegal catering firm

Food inspectors' shocking find at unlicensed catering firm

The scene that greeted food safety inspectors when they investigated the catering firm.

The scene that greeted food safety inspectors when they investigated the catering firm.

First published in Business Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author by

Food inspectors found a disgusting mess at an illegally-run Hampshire catering firm – and now its owner faces a £100,000 bill.

Tired of its repeated flouting of the rules designed to keep people safe, council officials raided Paul Gillingham’s suburban base in Winchester.

Inspectors found unidentifiable food in the filthy kitchen, including 30 joints of meat, and also food in freezers under tarpaulins in the garden.

High-risk food was even stored in a Ford Transit, including mayonnaise, which had to be kept below 8C but was at 18C.

With the case closed, pictures of what inspectors found have just been released.

Now Gillingham, 55, faces a £95,000 legal bill that, barring a major windfall, looks set to “follow him around forever”.

Winchester City Council has won an order against him under the proceeds of crime act, because he was running an unlicensed business.

Gillingham had earlier admitted 30 food hygiene offences and was fined more than £7,000 by Winchester Crown Court.

The proceeds of crime order means that Gillingham must repay £95,000 made by County Caterers while it traded illegally between October 2004 and October 2010.

It was based at Brookwood Industrial Estate, Eastleigh, but was gutted by fire in November 2010.

A former employee, Julian White, 54, of Thurmond Crescent, Stanmore, Winchester, has since been jailed for four years for arson.

Gillingham temporarily moved the firm to his father’s council house in Vernham Road, Weeke, Winchester.

The city council ordered him not to use it, having not legally registered it for food preparation. That was where the photos were taken.

At the sentencing, Recorder of Winchester Judge Keith Cutler said even though nobody fell ill, there had been a “serious risk” to public health.

To cover more than £7,000 of legal bills, the court heard Gillingham would have to sell his car, his van and empty his bank account.

He faces jail if he does not pay, and the city council has now obtained another order against him.

It can collect up to £95,000 of Gillingham’s future income, or make a claim against windfalls.

A council spokeswoman said: “It’s a personal debt that will follow him around forever. If and when he comes into any money or assets, we can put a claim in to the court.

“The £95,000 is we believe the proceeds of crime by being unlicensed, money that he couldn’t account for in the accounts, cash payments.”

Half the money will go to the Crown, 37 per cent to the city council and 13 per cent to the courts.

Cllr Victoria Weston, Cabinet member for environment, said: “Winchester City Council takes its role in ensuring public safety very seriously, and has a dedicated team of professionals ensuring it is safe to eat in the district.

“This case has involved a lot of work and demonstrates that the council will not allow food providers to operate in any way that could put people’s health at risk.”

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