Editor, IFSEC Global

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Adam Bannister was Editor of IFSEC Global from 2014 through to November 2019. Adam is also a former Managing Editor at Dynamis Online Media Group.
March 1, 2017

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Lakanal House

Southwark Council fined £570,000 over Lakanal House deaths

Southwark Council has been fined a total of £570,000 for safety failures at Lakanal House, the south London tower block in which three women and three children lost their lives in 2009.

London fire brigade (LFB) brought the prosecution against the council, which was landlord of the 14-storey block of flats at the time, after inspectors visited Lakanal House in the wake of the fire.

The most egregious shortcomings identified was a failure to conduct a fire-risk assessment, deficiencies in fire-resistant structures and materials between each maisonette staircase and shared internal doors, a lack of compartmentation in false ceiling structures of shared corridors and an absence of fitted intumescent strips and smoke seals on fire doors.

At Southwark crown court, Judge Jeffrey Pegden ordered Southwark council to pay a £270,000 fine plus £300,000 costs.

The fine, which was potentially unlimited, was reduced from £400,000 after the council pleaded guilty to four offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire) Safety Order.

In 2013, the inquest into the fire determined that the blaze had started when a television in a ninth-floor flat caught fire. The flames and smoke then spread rapidly throughout the block of 98 maisonettes, which were built in 1960.

999 mistaken advice

It also emerged that the people who died had been told by 999 operators to stay put, mistakenly believing that fire safety measures would prevent flames and smoke from reaching them.

In passing sentence, Judge Pegden said: “In this case there was a major fire at Lakanal House on 3 July 2009, involving the tragic loss of six lives – including three children. But the sentence of this court of course can never reflect such a terrible tragedy.

“Indeed, the prosecution don’t allege that these breaches were causative of the fatalities in the fire, or indeed of the fire itself. This case is concerned with the risk existing prior to those events.”

“Some have talked about the need for this case to act as a warning to others, but for us the death of six residents is a stark reminder every day of the terrible cost of failings at Lakanal.” Southwark councillor Peter John

Dan Daly, LFB’s assistant commissioner for fire safety, said: “The fire at Lakanal House was a particularly harrowing incident and our thoughts remain with the families and loved ones of those who died. Bringing this prosecution against Southwark council has been about ensuring that lessons are learned.

“All landlords, including large housing providers, such as councils and housing associations, have a clear responsibility under the law that their premises meet all fire safety requirements and are effectively maintained to provide protection in the event of a fire and keep their residents safe.

“We want them to take the opportunity provided by this court case to remind themselves of exactly what their fire safety responsibilities are under the law and to ensure that everyone in their premises is safe from the risk of fire.”

Southwark councillor Peter John said: “We fully accept the decision of the judge and the fine he has imposed. Some have talked about the need for this case to act as a warning to others, but for us the death of six residents is a stark reminder every day of the terrible cost of failings at Lakanal.

“Once again I can only apologise for the council’s role in this tragedy. We have since invested £62m to make our homes safer, and would urge all landlords to ensure their homes are safe so a tragedy like Lakanal is never repeated.”

 

Two years ago IFSEC Global asked a number of fire-safety experts if they thought lessons had been learned from Lakanal and for their prescriptions on preventing another, similar tragedy.

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Arnold E Tarling
Arnold E Tarling
March 2, 2017 10:54 am

The prosecution ONLY covered Lakanal House.  The sister block Marie Curie House which had the identical defects was not included, neither were all of the other defective tower blocks included.  The lack of FRA’s required under the RRFSO for everywhere apart from the council offices was not discussed. Unfortunately the fine is paid out of the Housing Budget – the same budget that has funded the multi-million pound legal bills for the inquest, so it is the poor residents who suffer once again. What also was not discussed was the fact that many Section 11 disrepair reports served on Southwark… Read more »

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[…] The Grenfell Inquiry has heard of how successive administrations were accountable for “collusion” with the construction industry to suppress the results of investigations into previous cladding fires, including that which occurred at Lakanal House in 2009.   […]