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Hotel owners handed suspended prison sentences

20 June 2018

THE OWNERS of a four-storey 64 bedroom hotel in Torquay have been given a four month suspended prison sentence after pleading guilty to multiple fire safety breaches.

Mr Bashir Rana and Mrs Veena Bahl, directors of The Sherwood Palm Hotel Ltd appeared before Exeter Crown Court on 14 June 2018. They had previously pleaded guilty to three offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and have both been sentenced to 4 months in prison suspended for 12 months. The company has also been fined £40,000 and full costs totaling £10,165 have been awarded to DSFRS.

The offences related to various failures of the fire safety standards found during an inspection by Business Safety Officers of Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service in September 2016. These included a lack of an appropriate fire detection and warning system; lack of fire doors and poor management which allowed fire doors to be wedged open; an external staircase which was badly corroded; escape routes compromised by the storage of mattresses and a lack of suitable control measures in relation refurbishment works.

Due to the number of deficiencies found and the level of risk to which staff and guests were exposed the use of the whole hotel was prohibited. The subsequent investigation found that Mr Rana and Mrs Bahl had ignored concerns raised in two previous fire risk assessments, and notification from an alarm engineer in 2013 advising them that the fire alarm system was not up to current or acceptable standards.

In summing up the Judge said “I acknowledge there was not a complete failure as some work was done, and there was some servicing of fire safety equipment.

“However, the fire safety provisions fell far short of the recognised standards in so many ways, despite being made aware of the deficiencies and it was allowed to persist over a long period of time.”

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service business safety manager Paul Bray said “Mr Rana and Mrs Bahl, being Directors of the company, were responsible for fire safety at the premises and the safety of their guests.  They understood the need for a Fire Risk Assessment, yet failed to prioritise the works and implement suitable control measures to ensure the premises was safe when occupied. Their actions showed a disregard for the law and the lives of those who trusted them to keep them safe”

Mr Bray went on to say “Had there been a fire, residents and staff would have been at serious risk of death or injury as a result of the poor fire safety standards and management. The severity of the fines imposed by the court shows that those responsible for the safety of others cannot ignore their responsibilities.”