A BOGUS gas engineer who flouted the law and whose botched work left a pregnant householder at risk of death or serious injury was spared jail after a judge said public funds should not be spent to keep him behind bars.

Christopher James Chapman had his gas installer's registration withdrawn ten years ago after question marks were raised over his competence.

Yet between 2005 and 2012 he carried on working in properties in Darlington and was using the logo used by the then official registration body, Corgi, on his invoices.

In 2010 – and with Corgi having been replaced by the Gas Safe Register – he assured an inspector, following further complaints, he was retiring and acknowledged he was unregistered.

Chapman, 66, of Newlands Road, Darlington, admitted ten offences relating to gas safety regulations when he previously appeared before magistrates.

They concluded his offending was so serious that he should be sentenced by a higher court.

Ruth Cranidge, prosecuting, told Teesside Crown Court, between June and October 2012 Chapman repaired a central heating boiler and installed a gas fire in a pregnant woman's home in Peterhouse Close, Darlington.

The boiler later had to be disconnected and was classed “immediately dangerous” to life.

A seal to the gas boiler had deliberately been jammed open with a piece of rock, while the gas fire was not properly sealed, said Ms Cranidge.

The Health and Safety Executive found Chapman also illegally carried out two gas safety checks on appliances and fitted a boiler at a house in Grey Street between March 2005 and August 2008, and undertook four gas safety checks at a house in Montrose Street between March 2005 and August 2008, with a fifth carried out on 3 February 2011.

Lorraine Mustard, mitigating, said self-employed Chapman, who still works as a plumber, did the work out of financial necessity and as a favour to others.

She said: “These offences were not committed with a malicious disregard for safety.”

Judge Michael Taylor said he had ignored “crystal clear” warnings that he was not competent and was working unlawfully.

The judge said that while the offending warranted a jail sentence, Chapman now recognised the seriousness of his actions.

He also questioned whether further public funds should be spent on jailing Chapman.

Judge Taylor gave him a three month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, along with 200 hours unpaid work and ordered him to pay £1,000 costs.

HSE Inspector Jonathan Wills said death or serious injury was a “foreseeable consequence” from Chapman's illegal and highly unsafe work.