Carmarthenshire’s Trading Standards team has welcomed the sentencing of a Pembrey man found guilty of selling potentially deadly fake motor racing harnesses.
Carmarthenshire County Council prosecuted 22-year-old Finbar Hannaford after discovering he was selling counterfeit race harnesses bearing the Sabelt, Sparco and Takata brand names through eBay and Facebook, putting his customers at risk of death or serious injury.
He was sentenced at Swansea Crown Court under s.9 of the Fraud Act 2006, where he was handed an 18-month suspended prison sentence, ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work, and told to contribute £1,000 to prosecution costs.
Judge Recorder Christopher Clee QC said Hannaford narrowly avoided an immediate prison sentence, considering the fact that he continued selling after being warned of the safety implications a serious aggravating feature.
The severity of the risk his customers were under came to light when Trading Standards officers arranged for the harnesses to be tested as part of their investigation.
They were so concerned at the catastrophic failure of a counterfeit Sparco harness in controlled test conditions that they released a video showing how spectacularly it had failed.
Footage showed the harness snapping at several points under tests of just 50km per hour, catapulting the crash test dummy out of its seat, snapping back its head and strangling it by the neck – indicating in a real life situation, and under normal use, that it could cause death or serious injury.
The video has been shared and viewed thousands of times on social media and racing websites in several countries including Hungary, Finland and Spain.
During their investigation, the Trading Standards team asked Hannaford for information that would allow his customers to be contacted.
His lack of cooperation means many of his customers may still be using the fake harnesses, unaware of the serious risk they are under.
Trading Standards officers have been working closely with official manufacturers of Sparco, Sabelt and Takata harnesses, as well as UK race officials, to raise awareness of the counterfeits.
Robin Staines, Head of Housing and Public Protection at Carmarthenshire County Council, said: “Our officers have worked incredibly hard to investigate this case and bring it to a successful prosecution. We are still concerned that many of the fake harnesses he sold may still be in use, so we welcome the sentencing as well as the media coverage this case has generated.”
Drivers who have bought Sparco, Sabelt and Takata harnesses from an unofficial or discounted seller are advised to remove them from their vehicles immediately and seek civil advice.
Trading Standards officers stress that there are no known safety issues with genuine Sparco, Sabelt and Takata harnesses bought through authorised stockists.
Anyone with concerns about harnesses, or other motor racing safety products, should contact their local Trading Standards team for advice. In Carmarthenshire, contact Trading Standards on email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01267 234567.