As 2017 comes to a close, we bring these latest fire prosecutions to you to act as a reminder and warning about the responsibilities and legal obligations of business owners to undertake regular fire risk assessments.
Case 1: Cheshire Hotel Fined £75,000 For Serious Fire Safety Breaches
A luxury Cheshire hotel has been fined £75,000 and ordered to pay Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service costs in excess of £52,000 after putting its guests at serious risk from fire.
The Belfry Hotel, owned by Hallmark Hotel Group and described as "one of the finest" on its website, appeared at Chester Crown Court and pleaded guilty to three counts of serious breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (the "FSO").
The breaches came to light after Firefighters called at the premises in Wilmslow for a routine visit and discovered a catalogue of safety issues, putting people at substantial risk of death in the event of a fire occurring.
Their findings were so severe that Fire Safety Officers were brought in the same day and the venue was closed amid fears for the safety of its guests, the staff and contractors working on site.
The court heard that on the third floor of the luxury hotel there was not a single working fire alarm, while on other floors of the 160-capacity hotel there were faulty smoke detectors and substandard fire exits. Also staff had not been properly trained in fire safety.
Judge Elgin Edwards told the court that the legislation is intended to bite and to ensure the protection of the public.He said: "For people who run hotels, fire security is particularly important, this company carried on trading and taking guests when quite clearly these guests were put at substantial risk."
Owners Hallmark Hotels admitted three breaches of fire safety laws and were fined £25,000 for each offence and ordered to pay costs of £52,585 to Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service.
Lee Shears, Manager for Community Fire Protection at Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service said: "This is an excellent result as it gives a clear message that action will be taken against any business that neglects fire safety and thereby risks public safety. Fire safety is a key part of good business management and the Hallmark Hotel Group showed little or no regard for the safety of their guests or employees and the result was a prosecution."
The hotel was allowed to re-open four days later, after the required equipment was installed and the safety problems fixed.
Source: Cheshire Fire
Case 2: Nottingham landlord is fined £6k following fire safety concern
A Nottingham landlord with a portfolio of properties worth over £1m has been handed a fine of £6,000 after a number of fire breaches were found at four of his properties.
Magistrates heard that two posed concerns over fire safety, two lacked clear escape routes and none were licensed with Nottingham City Council.
Council officers checked a three-storey house on Bruce Close, in The Meadows, and found it had seven bedrooms and five tenants. They shared the kitchen and bathroom. It had no licence.
Miss Mills told the court: "There was a lack of fire doors throughout the property, the kitchen door did not have a handle and could not be closed. There was a fridge stored in the hallway which provided access to the bathroom, kitchen and rear door."
Gohil owned another house on the street and this again had no licence and problems with fire detectors."Smoke detectors were not linked so occupants on the first and second floor would not receive adequate early warning in the event of a fire."
Fines totalling £4,750 were ordered for Gohil, who admitted seven breaches of the Housing Act.
John Campbell, mitigating, told the magistrates: "He has rectified all the matters subject of these offences. He has applied for licences for all the properties.
"He didn't need to be prosecuted to leap into action. The purpose is to maintain standards and safety and that has been served."
Case 3: House owner receives suspended sentence for ‘death-trap’ house
A man from Gloucester has been handed a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, for a string of dangerous fire safety failings at a house under his ownership.
Owner Mr Moynul Islam was also ordered to pay costs totalling nearly £3000.
After hearing evidence from Station Manager Graham Parker, the Fire Safety Enforcement Manager, Recorder G Bebb QC stated that the premises were a fire disaster waiting to happen, there were squalid living conditions and it was a death trap.
Mr Parker told the court that in his 23 years in the role, it was the most unsafe house he had ever seen.
There was a flagrant disregard of the law and had a fire happened there was a very high risk of death. It was so serious that only a custodial sentence was appropriate, heard the court.
In July 2016, an inspection of the premises was carried out, supported by Gloucester City Council. Fire safety enforcement officers discovered that unauthorised sleeping accommodation for tenants had been provided on the ground, first and second floors.
A fire alarm system had not been provided and the structural fire precautions were insufficient to allow safe escape in the event of fire.The fire safety breaches were so serious that death or serious injury would be likely in the event of fire. This resulted in the whole premises being banned from use.
Further inspections found that the ‘notice’ was being breached and tenants were still living on the premises. The defendant pleaded guilty to numerous failings.
Cllr Nigel Moor, cabinet member for fire, planning and infrastructure, said: “Fire safety law is there to help keep people safe. We always prefer a supportive and co-operative approach to ensure owners comply but sometimes legal action is the only option left.
“This prosecution sends a strong message - we will not stand for owners failing to comply with fire safety laws.”
Stewart Edgar, Chief Fire Officer at Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue said that he hoped this would act as a deterrent to all those who risk the lives of others by failing to comply with legislation which has been developed with people's safety in mind.
“My firefighters and officers works extremely hard to prevent fires and other emergencies from occurring in the first place.
“Part of that prevention agenda is to ensure that those who are responsible for the safety and well being of others comply with the law and keep everyone safe.”
Here at Vulcan we offer a range of fire training courses to help both companies and individuals understand what to do in the event of a fire.