A D-I-Y lawyer has won almost £6,000 from a rogue businessman who disappeared after taking £24,000 from the taxpayer and then failed to pay his staff.

Warren Grimes read up on employment law to take on Chris Ward, who hired 18 staff to man a call centre he set up in Taunton.

And it paid dividends when a judgement was made against Mr Ward, who didn’t even bother to respond to a tribunal’s requests for his side of the dispute.

Mr Grimes was hired to work for Advocate Consultancy Services, in Hammet Street, Taunton, last September, with the promise of a £14,500 salary.

Other workers left over the coming months after Mr Ward, who claimed he was the victim of cash flow problems, failed to pay their wages, although Mr Grimes did actually receive one pay cheque for £948.08 before the business closed in January.

An employment tribunal set for last month was cancelled after Mr Ward failed to reply to notifications and a judgement was made against him.

Ward has been ordered to hand Mr Grimes £4,906.82 in unpaid wages and holiday pay plus £896.70 in other penalties, including costs and bank charges the latter incurred for going overdrawn.

Mr Grimes said: “He (Ward) made lots of promises, but apart from one cheque, I never got paid.

“It made me go overdrawn and I had to go to the Foodbank because I was completely broke.

“I took things into my own hands and studied employment law to try to get my money.

“He ignored the tribunal and they made a judgement in my favour.”

Mr Ward persuaded Taunton Deane Council to award him a £24,000 set-up grant, convincing them he was relocating a business from Birmingham to Taunton and would employ 24 staff.

A council spokeswoman said: “The council paid Advocate Consultancy Services a business grant towards the end of 2014 to enable the creation of 24 new jobs in Taunton.

“Evidence was provided by the business owner that the jobs had been filled and that a lease had been entered for offices in the town centre.

“Following the concerns raised by the employees, and checks made by the council’s officers it became apparent that ACS was not operating the business it had promised.

“The council is pursuing the business owner with the intent of getting the grant repaid at the earliest opportunity.”

The County Gazette has been unable to trace Mr Ward, who lived at Hatch Beauchamp for a period but is believed to have moved.

In January, Mr Ward, who reckoned he’d sunk £20,000 of his own money into the firm, claimed he was suffering “major cash-flow issues” but pledged to have the business up and running by the following month.