Adam Bannister

Editor, IFSEC Global

Author Bio ▼

Adam Bannister is editor of IFSEC Global. A former managing editor at Dynamis Online Media Group, he has been at the helm of the UK's leading fire and security publication since 2014.
October 1, 2019

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Fire safety order 13 years on

Fines for fire safety breaches have soared since Grenfell

The average fine handed down for breaches of the Fire Safety Order has risen sharply since the fire at Grenfell Tower in 2017.

Reviewing 200 of his cases brought under the legislation, fire safety solicitor Warren Spencer found that the average fine since the tragedy is £27,519, more than a third (35%) higher than the average across 2014-2019, which is £20,375.

His research, published to mark the 13th anniversary of the legislation coming into force, also found that three fire services have not brought a single prosecution under the order.

The most enforced part of the order relates to emergency routes and exits

The ground-breaking study reveals that the most enforced part of the order is Article 14, which relates to emergency routes and exits. And of Spencer’s 200 cases only nine defendants have pleaded not guilty to all charges brought.

The research might be the most detailed analysis yet of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, to give it its full name.

“All of the data relating to sentencing comes from my own records as I am not aware that there has been any other analysis relating to this since the Fire Safety Order came into effect,” said Spencer. “There are some interesting patterns and a sharp increase in the average fine imposed since Grenfell.”

Spencer, who topped the fire safety category in the IFSEC Global Security & Fire Influencers 2018, was taken aback by the extent of his involvement.

“For me, the most surprising aspect of the government figures was that there had been approximately 560 prosecutions between October 2006 and March 2018,” said Spencer. “If this is correct, then I have been involved in over a third of all prosecutions brought under the order, which makes our figures statistically relevant.”

The standout numbers

  • Out of 200 cases only nine defendants have pleaded not guilty to all charges brought
  • Article 14 relating to emergency routes and exits is the most enforced
  • The most prosecutions by a single fire service is 120
  • Three fire services have not brought any prosecutions since the order came into force 13 years ago
  • A total of £1,230,879 has been handed out in fines
  • The average fine between 2014-2019 was £20,375
  • Average fine Post Grenfell was £27,519

The study drew on government statistics and information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act as well as primary data from Spencer’s own cases.

Spencer, who has prosecuted and defended fire safety cases for over 12 years, has written the first in a series of articles examining his findings across four areas: breaches prosecuted, premises prosecuted, prosecuting fire services and sentencing. He also considers enforcement notices, defences typically deployed by defendants, the Grenfell effect and why so many defendants plead guilty.

Warren Spencer has conducted numerous enforcement and prohibition notice appeals brought under the Fire Safety Order. As a Higher Courts Advocate he can work as an advocate in the Crown Court.

 

The Future of Fire Safety: download the eBook

Is the fire protection industry adapting to the post-Grenfell reality fast enough? At FIREX International 2019, Europe's only dedicated fire safety event, some of the world's leading fire safety experts covered this theme. This eBook covers the key insights from those discussions on the developments shaping the profession, with topics including:

  • Grenfell Inquiry must yield “bedrock change” – and soon
  • After Grenfell: Jonathan O’Neill OBE on how austerity and policy “on the hoof” are hampering progress
  • Hackitt’s Golden Thread: Fire, facilities and building safety
  • Fire safety community has to “get on board” with technological changes

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Michael Floyd

Please name the F&RS where there’s no prosecutions. I wish you to set up a dodgy hotel or other business on their patch ASAP.

Mr Leslie Dodd
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Mr Leslie Dodd

It goes to show which authorities are giving businesses great advice and support in order for them to comply with the regulations.

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