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Article 1 - Fire risk assessor and hotel manager jailed for fire safety offences - [updated 11.07.11]

08 July 2011

An external fire risk assessor and a hotel manager have both been jailed for eight months for fire safety offences.

David Liu, who runs The Dial Hotel and Market Inn, both in Mansfield, had previously pleaded guilty at Nottingham Crown Court to 15 offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, while John O’Rourke of Mansfield Fire Protection Services pleaded guilty to two offences under the legislation.

The Judge said that the time had come to send out a message to those who conduct fire risk assessments, and to hoteliers who are prepared to put profit before safety.

Officers from Nottingham Fire and Rescue Service visited both hotels as part of a routine inspection. They found that both premises were being used to provide sleeping accommodation on the upper floors and that fire precautions, which should have been provided to safeguard the occupants in the event of a fire, were inadequate.

Due to the serious risk to life, they issued prohibition notices preventing any further use of both premises for sleeping accommodation until suitable improvements had been made.

Mr O’Rourke was prosecuted because he had prepared fire risk assessments for both premises. However the fire risk assessments failed to identify a number of significant deficiencies, said the prosecution, which would have placed the occupants at serious risk in the event of a fire.

The offences common to both hotels to which Mr Liu, as the responsible person, pleaded guilty were:

  • A lack of a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment
  • A failure to ensure effective means of escape with doors leading onto corridors not being fire resisting or having self-closers fitted
  • A failure to ensure that emergency routes and exits were provided with emergency lighting
  • A failure to ensure the premises were equipped with appropriate firefighting equipment, detectors and alarms in that there was no fire detection within the bedrooms
  • A failure to ensure that equipment and devices provided were subject to a suitable system of maintenance in that the fire alarm system, emergency lighting system and firefighting equipment were not tested.

In addition at the Dial Hotel, officers found both staircases from upper levels terminating in the same ground floor area with no alternative escape routes or separation, a locked fire exit door, and exit routes obstructed by combustible materials.

The other offence at the Market Inn related to a missing fire door and a window not being fire resisting.

Mr Liu was also ordered to pay costs of £15,000.

John O’Rourke, as a person other than the responsible person who had some control of the premises, pleaded guilty to two counts (one for each hotel) of failing to provide a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment. He was ordered to pay costs of £5,860.

Article 2

London Fire Brigade (LFB) is warning businesses and property owners that failure to comply with fire safety law not only puts people’s lives at risk but could also result in heavy fines.

Last year London companies paid over £1m in fines and costs for breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 – further evidence to suggest that courts are taking issues of fire safety seriously. Fines have been imposed on both small businesses and individual landlords in the region, as well as international companies – such as Shell International (fined £300,000 for fire safety breaches) and high street retailer New Look which parted with over £500,000 in fines and costs – the largest fine to-date under the RRO after a serious fire at their Oxford Street premises in April 2007.

As enforces of fire law, the LFB can prosecute companies or individuals where serious or repeated breaches are found. A number of court cases since the introduction of the Order have shown that courts – aside to issuing large fines – have also passed jail sentences for failing to meet current fire safety laws.

The Order applies to virtually all buildings, places and structures (except private homes) and includes premises such as shops, restaurants, offices, nightclubs, care homes, sports venues, houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) and also the communal areas of residential housing blocks and bedsits.

Article 3

About 14,000 fire inspections of premises are conducted by LFB each year and according to the brigade there is a shortfall of compliance with too many premises failing to meet the Order’s requirements – for example, not having an appropriate fire risk assessment or having blocked fire exits and poor fire alarms.

A Former pub landlord has been ordered to pay a total of £16,015 in fines and costs for serious breaches of fire safety law following a prosecution brought by London Fire Brigade.

Mr Bhupinder Singh Mann pleaded guilty to 16 contraventions of the Fire Safety Order 2005.

Isleworth Crown Court heard that fire officers inspecting the star public house in Hillingdon, west London, in august 2008 uncovered a number of failings, including no fire risk assessment, no portable fire extinguishers, and no emergency signage.

After explaining there concerns and asking for the faults to be rectified, fire officers revisited the premises and issued an enforcement notice when they found continuing non compliance.

When officers again visited the premises, conditions had deteriorated and the brigade served a prohibition notice banning the use of the upper floors by staff and guests because the risk from fire was so serious. However, a subsequent visit confirmed that the upper floors were still being used as accommodation.

Following a further inspection in May 2009, the owner of the premises, Punch Taverns, took action at the recommendations of fire officers and physically barred access to the upper floors.

As pub landlord during the period, Mr Singh Mann was the responsible person under the fire safety order, and was fined accordingly.

In addition, Mr Bales-Smith part of the management structure of the pub was ordered to pay £1,015 in fines and costs after pleading guilty to two breaches of the legislation, particularly in relation to non compliance with the prohibition notice.



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