Couple ordered to pay £27,000 for fire safety breaches

Fri 12 Aug, 2016


The owner of a HiMO (house in multiple occupation) in Milton Keynes and her husband, who assisted her in the operation of the premises, have been ordered to pay a total of £27,485.08 for serious breaches of fire safety regulations.

Mrs Mahin Begum Choudhury and Mr Ajjequr Rahman Irshad appeared before Milton Keynes Magistrates Court for sentencing on 29 July in connection with offences brought under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Prosecuting advocate informed the court that the defendants had pleaded guilty to a total of 10 charges each at a previous hearing before the court on 17 June for failing to take adequate fire precautions in respect of the premises at Ferndale, Eaglestone.

Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire Authority brought the charges following an inspection of the premises by Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service inspecting officers on 19 September 2014. The inspection, carried out following a fire safety complaint from housing officers for Milton Keynes Council, identified significant and serious contraventions of fire safety regulations.

The court heard that the contraventions were so serious that inspecting officers implemented immediate and interim fire safety measures in order to avoid serving a prohibition notice restricting the use of the premises.

The contraventions included:
 
  • Failure to take adequate general fire precautions.
  • Inadequate fire protection for fire escape routes.
  • No emergency lighting.
  • An inadequate fire warning system.
  • No fire risk assessment.
  • No firefighting equipment.

Magistrates heard that the defendants had let parts of the premises for sleeping guests despite failing to provide adequate fire safety precautions, and that this failure placed people at risk of death or serious injury from fire.

The court was told of the defendants' regret, and their failure to appreciate their obligations under the regulations, in mitigation presented by the defence.

Summing up, Magistrates said the contraventions of fire safety regulations were very serious and fined the defendants a total of £30,000. However, this was reduced to £20,000 in acknowledgement the defendants' early guilty pleas. A victim surcharge payment of £200 was awarded together with full costs of £7,285.08 in favour of Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire Authority. The court directed the defendants be given time to pay.

Station Commander Ian Wilson, head of fire safety enforcement in Milton Keynes, said: “As this case clearly demonstrates, complying with fire safety legislation is not optional. Failure to ensure the safety of vulnerable people in the event of fire, especially in sleeping accommodation, is a very serious matter.

“This case shows that people who have responsibilities to meet fire safety obligations may face severe penalties, including imprisonment, if they place people at risk of death or serious injury.

"However, we will go to great lengths to help businesses who seek our advice and guidance about how they may best comply with fire safety law. Any person who asks for our help about any serious fire safety deficiencies they feel they may have, before they come to our attention through other channels, will not normally be prosecuted."

Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service's fire safety office in Milton Keynes can be contacted on 01908 236413 or by email at miltonkeynesfiresafety@bucksfire.gov.uk