A MONEY lender says his “nightmare” is over after a judge formally cleared him of offences after a two-year investigation..

Robert Bayford, 62, of Stenning Avenue in Linford, lost his business and slipped into depression after being pursued by the England Illegal Money Lending Team, Essex Police and Thurrock Council, for two years.

However, at Basildon Crown Court yesterday, Judge Owen Davies formally cleared him of charges of money laundering and handling stolen goods because the prosecution offered no evidence.

Mr Bayford had already admitted running a consumer credit business between 2006 and 2011 without a licence and was given a conditional discharge for this offence as Judge Davies accepted Mr Bayford’s explanation that he had only forgotten to renew his credit licence in 2006 because his daughter was severely ill.

Mr Bayford, who rented and sold taxis to Thurrock taxi drivers, was arrested in July 2011 following raids on his home and his business, Bob Bayford’s Autos, in Horndon-on-the-Hill.

Officers seized 12 taxis and paperwork and six other taxis were given prohibition notices by Thurrock Council, preventing them from being used for business.

Mr Bayford was subsequently charged with money laundering and handling stolen goods offences. However, the prosecution offered no evidence for these in court,leading to the judge finding him not guilty of these charges.

Speaking after the hearing Mr Bayford said; “I am just happy the utter nightmare of this injustice is finally over.”

The court heard Mr Bayford had been unable to work while the two-year proceedings were ongoing, had lost his business and spiralled in to debt.

He had become severely depressed and had been rescued last year after the authorities found him wandering on railway tracks in a delirious state.

Judge Davies accepted there was no evidence Mr Bayford charged his clients excessive interest on their loans.

Before sentencing Mr Bayford, Judge Davies questioned why the matter had not been dealt with at a lower court.

He said: “It is extremely important the Consumer Credit Act is observed because it offers protection to members of the public.

“However, I accept at the time your licence was due your daughter was ill.

“Because of your age and the nature of your business it is important that you are able to represent yourself as a person of good character.

“Interviews with probation put you at a low risk of re-offending.”

The Echo contacted the England Illegal Money Lending Team following the hearing.

A spokesman said the case was the first time in the team’s nine year history that a defendant had been handed a conditional discharge for the offence.

He said the Crown Prosecution Service was given all the evidence that was collected in their investigation and was unwilling to com- ‘ ment on the case’s outcome.