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Widnes hotel owner prosecuted due to “serious fire safety breaches”

24 May 2022

THE OWNER of a Widnes hotel has been sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years, for breaking fire safety laws. William Scott Anthony Hanson, proprietor of The Maintop Hotel on the Mersey Road, has also been ordered to pay £5,000 in costs, undergo 35 days of rehabilitation and undertake 80 hours of unpaid community work.

Hanson appeared for sentencing at Liverpool Crown Court on Thursday 28 April having previously pleaded guilty to nine counts of serious breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Prosecuting, Warren Spencer (managing director of Blackhurst Budd Solicitors and a regular guest on the Fire Safety Matters Podcast) informed the presiding officers at Liverpool Crown Court that the Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service’s inspecting officers had unearthed “serious deficiencies and breaches” of the Fire Safety Order during an inspection process conducted on 27 June 2019.

At the time, a number of guest bedrooms were being rented out and were occupied. The former public house has ten guest bedrooms, a kitchenette, a laundry room and a boiler room.

The deficiencies and breaches included:

*no working fire alarm system to alert people to a fire breaking out

*escape routes compromised due to missing fire doors

*inappropriately maintained emergency lighting on escape routes

*combustible materials being stored in escape routes

*the absence of fire doors separating the kitchen from rooms used for sleeping

*inadequate fire resistant compartmentation to prevent the spread of smoke and fire

*failure to maintain fire extinguishers

*no emergency plan in place for guests

*no fire risk assessment

Such was the risk posed to occupants, in fact, that inspecting officers immediately served Hanson with a Prohibition Notice under Article 31 of the Fire Safety Order, thereby prohibiting the use of the premises for living and sleeping accommodation. The Prohibition Notice was accompanied by a schedule of works to make the premises safe before allowing people to stay.

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service inspectors made a number of visits in order to check compliance with the Prohibition Notice. On 20 August 2020, four residents were found to be staying at the premises in breach of the Prohibition Notice.

Damning verdict

Sentencing, His Honour Judge Garrett Byrne said that Hanson had put “profit before safety” and had placed people “at risk of serious injury or death”. His Honour described Hanson’s failure to comply with the Prohibition Notice as “cynical” and “flagrant”.

Lee Shears, head of prevention and protection at the Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, commented: “Fire safety is a key part of good business management. Mr Hanson showed little or no regard for the safety of the guests sleeping at The Maintop Hotel. This was compounded by the fact that he ignored the Prohibition Notice and failed to heed our advice in terms of what needed to be done to make the premises safer.”

Shears concluded: “We always aim to help and support any business to operate safely. This case shows that we will press for action when fire safety responsibilities are not taken seriously.”