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Fire safety breaches in West Midlands building realise suspended jail term

09 May 2023

A FIRE in a West Midlands building housing a restaurant, offices and residential flats has led to the owner being handed a 16-month suspended prison sentence at Birmingham Crown Court. The owner and two companies have also been ordered to pay fines totalling £145,000 plus legal costs of £55,765.

On 30 September 2016, firefighters responded to a small fire on the first floor of the three-storey premises located at Wylde Green on the Birmingham Road. They were so concerned about smoke travel in the means of escape and the lack of fire safety arrangements that they called in fire safety officers to assess the premises.

When those fire safety officers from the West Midlands Fire Service inspected the premises, they discovered several fire safety-related issues. There was no fire risk assessment in place, insufficient fire resistance between the ground and first floors, no fire alarm system and dangerously coiled extension leads being used in the restaurant.

An interim fire alarm was fitted in order to reduce the immediate risk posed to individuals at the premises.

The West Midlands Fire Service served enforcement notices to KWB Property Management Ltd, Arista Restaurants Ltd and the landlord, namely Christos Orthodoxou, to ensure that other fire safety issues were addressed in a timely manner.

Subsequent visits

Further visits to the premises, carried out in 2018 and 2019, revealed that some of the fire safety issues had still not been addressed. It became apparent that records could not be produced to prove claims work had been carried out to address compartmentation failings, and also that work completed had been carried out to an acceptable standard.

On 28 April 2023, Arista Restaurants Ltd (trading as Piri Fino), KWB Property Management Ltd and Christos Orthodoxu were sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court after having earlier pleaded guilty to offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Orthodoxu’s prison sentence was suspended for 21 months. Further, Orthodoxu was ordered to pay a fine of £5,000 and costs of £15,765. KWB Property Management Limited was ordered to pay fines of £80,000, plus £20,000 costs. Arista Restaurants Limited was ordered to pay £60,000 and £20,000 in costs.

Reckless attitudes

Darren Marshall, Group manager of the West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We take no pleasure at ll from bringing such cases to court. We would much rather work with those responsible for fire safety in order to resolve issues in a timely manner.”

Marshall continued: “During this lengthy investigation, we encountered reckless attitudes towards fire safety. The building’s owner and agent refused to accept responsibility, as did the director of the restaurant and a director of the managing agency.”

In conclusion, Marshall stated: “Our role is to keep safe those living or working in, or otherwise visiting such premises. Where necessary, we will ensure that people who fail others in their fire safety responsibilities face the courts.”