Eight breaches of Fire Safety Order in County Durham lead to prosecution
28 August 2023
THE COUNTY DURHAM and Darlington Fire and Rescue Authority has brought a successful prosecution against Tarlochan Singh, director of 5th Capital Limited and the owner of Ridgemount House in Peterlee, County Durham, following several serious fire safety breaches.
Photograph: County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service
The hearing took place at Durham Crown Court on 22 August, whereupon Singh and 5th Capital Limited pleaded guilty to a total of eight charges, all of them relating to breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
During a fire safety inspection process conducted in October last year, officers found nine people sleeping on the third floor of the Ridgemont House building, which is an unoccupied office space. Other fire safety breaches discovered during the inspection included a failure to provide a fire risk assessment, failure to protect the means of escape, a lack of sufficient fire doors (or fire doors that were in a poor state of repair), no suitable fire alarm system, no fire safety drill procedure and defective emergency lighting.
Jonathan Smith, fire safety manager for the County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, explained: “This prosecution highlights that, while we seek to work with business owners to maintain fire safety standards in premises, ultimately it’s our duty as business fire safety officers to keep our communities safe. Although prosecution is a last resort, where there is a serious risk posed to our communities, we will not hesitate to take action.”
Steve Helps, chief fire officer at the County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, observed: “Led by our dedicated business fire safety team, this successful prosecution marks a pivotal moment in upholding the integrity of fire safety regulations. We have a duty to ensure that businesses prioritise the safety of their employees, customers and the public. This case serves as a stark reminder to employers, managers and owners of similar establishments that they have a responsibility to ensure compliance with fire safety laws.”
Helps concluded: “We are unwavering in our commitment to safeguarding lives and property, conducting around 2,000 audits of business premises every year, which is almost four times higher than the normal delivery of Fire and Rescue Services. We will continue to hold those who disregard critical fire safety regulations accountable for their actions.”
John Shuttleworth, chair of the County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Authority, noted: “We are committed to ensuring the highest standards of fire safety within our community. The safety of our residents and businesses lies at the heart of our vision of having a community underpinned by the ‘Safest People, Safest Places’.”
Shuttleworth added: “This verdict serves as a testament to our unwavering dedication to upholding the law, protecting lives and ensuring that every business, no matter its size, adheres to the essential fire safety regulations.
We will continue to work in collaboration with our communities and partner organisations in order to maintain the necessary standard of excellence, in turn ensuring a safer and more secure future for all.”
Tarlochan Singh and 5th Capital Limited will appear at Durham Crown Court on 5 October for sentencing.