Flats Owner Convicted Of Offences Against Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005
On Tuesday 7 March 2017 at Derby Crown Court, Robert Reilly, the developer and freeholder of two blocks of flats at Brookview Court, Nottingham Road, Borrowash, pleaded guilty to four breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of four months suspended for two years, as well as being ordered to pay prosecution costs of £3,000.
Following a complaint from a tenant in June 2015, Fire Inspectors carried out an Audit and Compliance Assessment of the flats and found the Fire Alarm System was entirely inoperative throughout the flats and common (shared) areas. These defects had persisted since 2007, despite warnings and advice given by the Fire Service at that time. In addition, maintenance of the emergency lighting was inadequate with some units defective and no Fire Risk Assessment had been carried out. Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service subsequently served an Enforcement Notice requiring improvement to be made by 31 July 2015. Despite numerous visits and warnings, required repairs were not completed until September 2015 and no fire risk assessment was completed until October 2016. As a result of these failings and the risk to residents’ lives, the Fire and Rescue Authority brought a prosecution.
Judge Shant, sentencing Mr Reilly, described the fire safety breaches as serious, observing that Mr Reilly was lucky that there had not been a fire and that residents had not lost their lives. Her decision to suspend the term of imprisonment imposed, she said, took account of Mr Reilly’s ill-health, his age and his good character as demonstrated by a number of references. Judge Shant made it clear that Courts are not likely to be lenient with future offenders who breach fire safety laws.
Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service, Area Manager Alex Johnson said: “The conditions found at Brookview Court were very serious in that tenants were put at risk of death or serious injury. If a fire had broken out in any of the flats, due to the lack of a functioning alarm system, no alarm would have been raised. Anyone discovering the fire would only have been able to raise the alarm by knocking on doors or pressing door bells to rouse residents, by that time, any fire could have developed to prevent their escape down the only staircase”.
Operators and owners of flats let for sleeping accommodation should recognise that they have a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of their tenants. A suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment should have been carried out and any significant findings acted upon, reviewed regularly, and fire safety provisions regularly maintained.
The common areas of Flats and Houses in Multiple Occupation within Derbyshire are regularly inspected for fire safety compliance, the vast majority of these are well managed, maintained and compliant with current fire safety regulations.
Area Manager Johnson went on to say: “Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service would once again like to remind all providers of sleeping accommodation of their legal responsibility to protect their guests, or tenants, from the risk of fire. The Fire and Rescue Service will consider formal action against anyone found to be in breach of Fire Safety regulations and particularly where they fail to comply with any statutory notices issued.
“The Service will advise and give support to both local and national businesses and are always willing to help make sure they comply with Fire Safety Legislation. However, the public should continue to be reassured that legal action will be used when necessary, where any serious breaches of Fire Safety Regulations are identified.”
For more information regarding business safety visit www.derbys-fire.gov.uk