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September 8, 2023

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Durham business owner prosecuted following eight serious fire safety breaches

A business owner and his company has been pleaded guilty following several serious fire safety breaches found during an inspection.  

The hearing took place at Durham Crown Court on 22 August, where Tarlochan Singh and 5th Capital Limited, pleaded guilty to breaches of the Fire Safety Regulatory Reform Order 2005 with a total of eight charges.

Officers during a fire safety inspection had found nine people sleeping on the third floor of the Ridgemont House building, which by its purpose is an unoccupied office space, in October 2022.

Other fire safety breaches discovered during the inspection included; failure to provide a fire risk assessment, failure to protect the means of escape, a lack of sufficient fire doors or fire doors that were in a poor state of repair, no suitable fire alarm system, no fire safety drill procedure and defective emergency lighting.

Jonathan Smith, Fire Safety Manager for County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service said: “This prosecution highlights that while we seek to work with business owners to maintain fire safety standards in premises, ultimately it is our duty as Business Fire Safety Officers to keep our communities safe. Although prosecution is a last resort, where there is a serious risk to our communities, we won’t hesitate to take action.”

“Unwavering in our commitment to safeguarding lives and property”

Steve Helps, Chief Fire Officer at County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service said on the day, “Today’s successful prosecution, led by our dedicated Business Fire Safety Team, marks a pivotal moment in upholding the integrity of fire safety regulations. We have a duty to ensure that businesses prioritise the safety of their employees, customers, and the public.

“This case serves as a stark reminder to employers, managers and owners of similar establishments that they have a responsibility to ensure compliance with fire safety laws. We are unwavering in our commitment to safeguarding lives and property, conducting around 2,000 audits of business premises every year, which is almost four times above the normal delivery of fire and rescue services. We will continue to hold those who disregard these critical fire safety regulations accountable for their actions.”

Further reading: Fire Risk Assessment – what does competence really mean?

John Shuttleworth, Chair of County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Authority said, “We are committed to ensuring the highest standards of fire safety within our community. The safety of our residents and businesses lies at the heart of our vision of having a community with the Safest People, Safest Places.

“The verdict today serves as a testament to our unwavering dedication to upholding the law, protecting lives, and ensuring that every business, no matter its size, adheres to the essential fire safety regulations.”

Mr Singh and 5th Capital Limited will appear at Durham Crown Court on October 5, 2023, for sentencing.


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