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Landlord pleads guilty to fire safety breaches

08 August 2018

THE DUSTHOLE Co Ltd in have been fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £5000 in costs after pleading guilty to four offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Mr Anthony Cockayne, the sole director of the company, was also given an eight month sentence suspended for two years and ordered to pay £2,000 in costs and a victim surcharge of £140 when he appeared before Bristol Crown Court on Monday 30 July 2018.

The offences related to a number of failures in the fire safety standards identified by officers of Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service (DSFRS) in 2016. The premises, also known as The Kings Arms, advertises as a hotel pub and restaurant and is based in Shepton Mallet.

The inspection revealed:

  • The fire detection and warning system fell far short of the standard expected in a premises providing sleeping accommodation;
  • On two separate occasions, officers found the fire detection and warning system inoperative as the fuse had been removed;
  • The escape routes serving the sleeping accommodation were not adequately protected by fire resisting construction
  • An original staircase had been sealed removing an alternative escape route from the first floor  
  • There was a lack of emergency escape lighting 
  • Self-closing devices had been disconnected from fire doors 

Due to the number of serious deficiencies found the officers served a prohibition notice preventing the use of the premises in respect of its sleeping accommodation until adequate fire safety measures were provided. 

The subsequent investigation by DSFRS revealed that Mr Cockayne had carried out several alterations to the premises, increasing the number of bedrooms. However, he had failed to review the fire safety provisions and take account of the changes.

In summing up, His Honour Judge Townsend said, "These are serious breaches of the Fire Safety Order", he also said "there was a disregard (for fire safety) over a long period of time" which was "therefore treated very seriously by the courts.’ He went on to say to Mr Cockayne ‘No effort was made to apply the standards and you must have realised this when you converted the bedrooms."

Business safety manager Paul Bray said, "It is important to stress that the vast majority of hotels and guest houses in Devon and Somerset comply with the necessary requirements of the Fire Safety Order to ensure that their premises are safe."

Mr Bray went on to say "The Service takes the safety of people that live, work and visit Devon and Somerset very seriously. Where companies fail to carry out their duties and those failures put lives at risk they will take all necessary action to ensure the matters are dealt with appropriately. The Service only takes legal action in the courts where it identifies failures so serious that there has been a significant risk to people’s safety."