Journalist, Cherry Park

Author Bio ▼

Cherry Park is an experienced freelance journalist and reporter who specializes in features, news, and news analysis, in print and online. She has written extensively in the areas of health and safety, fire safety, employment, HR, recruitment, rewards, pay and benefits, market research, environment, and metallurgy, and she also conducts research.
January 15, 2014

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Latest UK Fire Prosecutions: Roundup

Tragedy averted

The former owner of a care home in Cheshire was given a 12-month suspended prison sentence after pleading guilty to three breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRO) 2005. Chester Crown Court heard about a serious fire at the care home in 2010 during which six elderly residents had to be rescued from the first floor.

Richard Dickinson, owner of the Rangemore Nursing Home, was also ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work and pay costs of GB pound 68,362. The judge praised the fire service for averting what could have been a major tragedy.

Care-home residents abandoned

Staff at a Liverpool nursing home put their own safety before that of elderly residents when a fire broke out in October 2012, a court has heard. When an electrical fault sparked fire at the St Michael’s Mount Nursing Home in October 2012 they left residents in their rooms as they made their escape.

Two residents, aged 85 and 98, were treated for smoke inhalation, one in hospital. Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service prosecuted the home’s owners, Michael Hanlon and James Mutch, who pleaded guilty to seven breaches of fire regulations, including: not having an effective fire-alarm system or appropriate risk assessment or fire evacuation plan; having wedged-open, defective fire doors; and having blocked emergency exits.

The pair were fined a total of GB pound 44,000, plus GB pound 4,000 costs.

No chance of escape

The unlicensed landlord of a three-storey, six-bedroom house he rented to students was fined GB pound 10,000 plus GB pound 825 in costs for not ensuring tenants’ safety. Michael Hiett pleaded guilty to running a house in multiple occupation (HMO) without a permit and to eight other safety offences.

Liverpool magistrates heard that the front, back, and bedroom doors were fitted with key-operated locks that could have impeded escape in the event of a fire, and neither the gas boiler, nor any electrical equipment, had been safety-checked.

District Judge Wynn Jones said the potential for significant harm was extremely high, as it was unlikely, in the event of a fire, that students could escape.

No fire-risk assessment

Another landlord running an unlicensed HMO was fined GB pound 12,520 after pleading guilty to four offences under the RRO. London Fire Brigade identified several fire-safety breaches after being called to the three-storey house in Muswell Hill, North London, that had been divided into nine separate flats.

The Brigade found poorly maintained and fitted fire doors, no working fire-alarm system or emergency lighting, and no fire-risk assessment — a legal requirement under the RRO.

Covered-over smoke alarms

In a third landlord prosecution, a Peterborough letting agent had to pay more than GB pound 14,000 for running yet another unlicensed HMO, which had a faulty fire-alarm system, broken or covered-over smoke alarms so tenants could have smoked in their rooms, and a fire-escape route blocked with filthy rubbish and bed-bug-infested beds.

Shahnawaz Lal, sole director of Haris properties and responsible for managing the overcrowded and illegal property, appeared before Peterborough Magistrates. The fire service installed temporary fire protection in the property, whose many tenants — many of them drug users — slept across 11 rooms, including in cupboards and the boiler room.

Obstructing a fire inspector

In a more unusual case, a landlord was prosecuted by Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Authority under article 27 of the RRO for repeatedly failing, without reasonable excuse, to respond to the service’s requests for information on whether he had complied with a 2011 Enforcement Notice.

Hubert Nicholls was fined GB pound 500 and ordered to pay GB pound 3,000 in costs for the offence.

David Phillips, head of business fire safety at Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Failure to comply without reasonable excuse to lawful enquiries being made by the Service’s Business Fire Safety Department were a serious matter and the Service would not hesitate in bringing prosecutions against owners of businesses who did not comply with fire safety law”.

Illegal waste burning

A company and its director were in the dock after waste was burnt illegally on the estate of a 13th century, Grade II-listed country house in Nottinghamshire. The fire created a plume of smoke that was visible from the M1 motorway over a mile away.

Firefighters were concerned that smoke from the fire, which contained plastic and waste-construction materials, might compromise visibility on nearby roads and potentially harm human health.

East Midlands Developments, the owners of Annesley Hall Estate, was fined GB pound 7,000 plus GB pound 8,000 costs, while its director Stephen Rye was told to pay more than GB pound 1,600 in fines and costs.

2023 Fire Safety eBook – Grab your free copy!

Download the Fire Safety in 2023 eBook, keeping you up to date with the biggest news and prosecution stories from around the industry. Chapters include important updates such as the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 and an overview of the new British Standard for the digital management of fire safety information.

Plus, we explore the growing risks of lithium-ion battery fires and hear from experts in disability evacuation and social housing.

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