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Guilty plea after fatal care home fire

05 June 2019

NEWGRANGE OF Cheshunt Limited, the owner of the Newgrange Care Home in Cadmore Lane, Cheshunt, has pleaded guilty to five offences against fire safety legislation after two of their residents died in a fire at the home in 2017.

Shortly before 6am on 8 April an electrical fault caused a fire to break out which spread quickly to the roof space of the home. At the time 35 elderly residents were in the home, 30 were not independently mobile and five were over 100 years old.

Thirty three of the residents were rescued by the fire service but tragically, Daphne Holloway, aged 88, and Ivy Spriggs, 91, both died as a result of the fire.

The five counts admitted by Newgrange of Cheshunt each involve an admission that they breached their duty imposed by fire safety law and that the breaches were such that they put the residents of the care home at risk of death or serious harm.

In mitigation, the company said it had a mature and industrious approach to fire safety and there was no previous warnings to indicate any risk. The company also expressed their profound regret that someone in their care should be harmed, let alone lose their life.

The company was fined £175,000 concurrent and ordered to pay £170 victim surcharge. They will also have to pay reasonable prosecution costs but these are subject to further negotiation.

No evidence was offered by the prosecution in relation to identical charges against the company’s director, Nicholas Meyer, and the registered care home manager Alison Wood.

In sentencing, the Judge took into account the guilty plea and that there were no previous convictions. He accepted that before this incident there had been a good health and safety record. However, he pointed out that there had been a complete failure to consider or concentrate on the safety of residents, as opposed to the safety of employees.

He praised the excellence and bravery of the firefighters and drew attention to the fact that seven firefighters had been awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal for the large number of rescues that were carried out on the morning of the fire.

Hertfordshire’s Chief Fire Officer Darryl Keen said: “Our thoughts remain with the families of the victims of this terrible tragedy and today’s judgement hopefully goes some way towards easing their suffering. Our fire crews worked extremely hard on that morning and successfully rescued many of the residents but it still weighs heavy that we were unable to save two of them.

“I would also like to place on record my thanks to Hertfordshire Constabulary for their assistance both during the incident and subsequent investigation.”

He added: “This incident highlights the need for all business owners to ensure they fully comply with fire safety legislation. If enough competent staff had been present and properly trained to carry out long-established and recognised guidance on evacuations in a care home I am sure that a full evacuation would have been started long before our arrival.

"Evacuation of a care home is a difficult task and needs to be properly considered and practiced so that everyone can escape unharmed. We continue to advocate the fitting of sprinkler or other fire suppression systems, particularly to any building where the occupants suffer from mobility issues.”

He added that Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service has since undergone a further programme of inspection of all of the county’s care homes in order to ensure that they all fully comply with fire safety legislation.