The offences date back to 18 May 2008 when a fire in the hotel spread quickly from a first-floor guest bedroom. The London Fire Brigade was called and no one was injured from the blaze, but fire safety inspectors later raised a number of concerns including defective fire doors, blocked escape routes and no smoke alarms in some of the hotel’s bedrooms.
“Business owners have a clear responsibility under fire safety law to ensure that both the public and their employees are as safe as possible from the risk of fire,” said Brian Coleman, chairman of London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority.
“This verdict sends out a clear message that if these responsibilities are ignored we will not hesitate in prosecuting and people will face serious penalties.”
The Chumleigh Lodge Hotel Limited was found guilty of six offences, while the hotels sole director Michael Wilson was found guilty of ‘consent or connivance in the commission’ of the same offences:
Failure to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of risk
- Failure to provide staff with adequate safety training
- Failure to ensure emergency routes from the premises are kept clear
- Failure to adequately equip premises with fire detectors
- Two counts of failure to ensure premises, facilities, equipment or devices are maintained in an efficient state, in working order and in good repair
Wilson was also unable to produce a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment and was found not to have provided staff with adequate fire safety training.
The case is believed to be the first jury trial of a case under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order of 2005.
Richard Bartlett of leading health and safety consultants Perry Scott Nash added: “While the level of fine may seem high to many, it’s the job of the hotelier to protect the welfare of its staff and guests – something that was clearly not evident in this case.
“This potential ‘landmark’ ruling could, and should, result in operators taking this very real health and safety issue seriously – it’s not good enough to overlook basics like blocked fire exits, lives are at stake, and hoteliers need to act now.”
The trial took place at Blackfriars Crown Court between 28 November and 6 December 2011 and sentencing was on Monday 6 February.