Adam Bannister

Editor, IFSEC Global

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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.
February 15, 2017

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Cybersecurity and physical security systems: how to implement best practices

Fire-safety fines roundup

Student accommodation provider given heavy fine and suspended prison sentence for multiple fire-safety breaches

A student accommodation provider has been handed a suspended prison sentence and almost £200,000 in fines and costs after multiple fire safety breaches.

Accommodation in Nottingham city centre operated by Nottingham Student Lettings Ltd lacked adequate means of escape, fire detection equipment or emergency lighting, Nottingham Crown Court heard. The operator could not provide a suitable fire-risk assessment and hadn’t provided staff with fire safety training.

During an inspection in 2013, fire protection officers from Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service found a void across four floors where a staircase should have been, capped-off smoke alarms, exposed electrical wiring and just one, inadequate means of escape: a staircase with an industrial laundry on one of its landings.

Nottingham Student Lettings Ltd was found to have breached fire regulations multiple times, despite having being granted an extended compliance notice period.

Judge Stuart Rafferty QC said that deaths would have been an “inevitability” if there had ever been a fire. “It could not be said within any degree of realism to have been a safe building,” he said. “It was far from it. The risk of death was not theoretical, it could well have occurred.”

Nottingham Student Lettings Limited and its sole director, Robert Singh, 52, pleaded guilty to five offences relating to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

The company was fined £150,000 and ordered to pay costs of £40,000. Mr Singh was sentenced to three months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to pay £5,000 in costs.

At the time of the breaches, 23 students were resident in the east wing of the property, which was subject to a Prohibition Notice, with space for up to 133 residents across the whole building.

Station Manager Tom Clark, of the service’s Fire Protection Investigation Team, said: “Regrettably, not only did Mr Singh put the young people living at his property at serious risk in the event of a fire, he refused to follow the advice of Fire Inspection Officers in how he could make the appropriate improvements to remove the risks, and meet current fire safety legislation.”

Find out about how you can meet fire safety legislation on the Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service website.

Fire-door breaches found at guesthouse following two arson attacks

A guesthouse owner has been slapped with £20,000 in costs and fines for a litany of RRO breaches.

The breaches came to light following two arson attacks on Kaiser Javeed Choudry’s premises, the Albert Guest House near Peterlee, county Durham, which housed vulnerable adults.

Peterlee Magistrates’ Court heard that firefighters were called to a large blaze – which was started deliberately by a resident – on the first floor of the premises on January 17 last year. Three of the 12 people in the property at the time had to be rescued – including a woman who required overnight hospital treatment.

The ensuing inspection found a wedged-open fire door with its handles removed and another with its self-closing mechanism removed.

In mitigation, defence lawyer Graham Jamieson said the faults were caused by workers who were redecorating at the time.

Despite promising to rectify the problems and bar residents from using the first floor, where the fire doors in question were, another inspection following a fire in a storage cupboard four months later – also deliberately started, by another resident – discovered the same problems.

A cupboard containing combustibles had also not been locked and a fire-risk assessment had not been completed.

Mr Jamieson said that residents were prohibited from using the first floor at the time, but the people in the building during the fire were trespassing.

Mr Choudry admitted three breaches of fire safety regulations and pleaded guilty on behalf of his company Hyatt Accommodation Services to a number of additional charges.

He was fined £8,166 and ordered to pay £12,000 in costs, with  Hyatt Accommodation Services fined £700.

District judge Kristina Harrison did express some sympathy for the defendant: “The problem, I think, is the type of people he was trying to accommodate, which are some of the most vulnerable in society, sometimes perhaps don’t appreciate it and have on two separate occasions set fire to in his premises, which has no doubt resulted in substantial loss to Mr Choudry.”

Housing cooperative faces punitive fine for litany of fire-safety failures

A landlord and housing cooperative are expected to face heavy fines for a litany of fire-safety breaches in a house in Burnley that they managed.

When the fire service raided the four-storey property in October 2014 they discovered damaged fire doors, faulty fire alarms and a lack of fire extinguishers, the town’s magistrates court was told.

The court also heard that the means of escape was compromised by the fact that front and back doors in the building could only be locked from the inside.

“Inadequate, ill-fitting and damaged fire doors” were also wedged open and equipped with faulty self-closing devices.

Holes in the basement’s ceiling found by inspectors would have permitted the egress of fire and smoke upwards, while a lack of firefighting equipment was also noted.

Embrace Co-operation Ltd, which had leased the house from Dr Muhammad Bhatti, had given rooms to 12 French students and two French carers.

Dr Bhatti was found guilty by Pennine magistrates of four fire safety offences relating to failures to provide general fire precautions, maintain alarms, provide easily accessible locks or maintain viable emergency escape routes.

London-based Embrace Co-operation pleaded guilty to six similar offences, including failures to provide fire safety training and risk assessments.

“The premises contained a number of breaches of fire safety legislation and lack of general fire precautions that placed the occupants at risk of death or serious injury,” said Warren Spencer, for the fire service.

Speaking after the case Tony Crook, Lancashire Fire’s group safety manager, said: “The leaseholders, Embrace Co-operation Ltd and the landlord, Dr Muhammad Bhatti, were both found to have a degree of control for the fire safety provision.

“They had a duty to ensure that people were provided with a safe environment. We hope this prosecution will ensure that the standard of his properties are kept within the requirements of the law.”

He has urged other landlords, who want fire safety assistance with house of multiple occupation or other premises, to come forward and work with officers.

Mr Crook said: “The consequences of the inadequate fire safety measures and inadequate management could have led to serious injury or loss of life.”

Wolverhampton landlords rack up £60,000 in fines in two years

Wolverhampton’s worst private landlords had to hand over £60,000 in fines and costs thanks to prosecutions by the city council in the last two years, according to the Express & Star.

The fines, which were levied against nine different property owners, were handed down for failing to deal with fire hazards, a lack of drainage and not maintaining electricity, among other things.

The lions share – £34,000 – was slapped on Joginder and Rashpal Bains, who managed a building where all communal lighting was wired through individual flats, the ceiling was deteriorating, the electricity and heating would cut out and there was no emergency lighting.

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