Cost-cutting results in guilty verdict for Newport landlord
20 June 2022
THE LANDLORD of two Newport properties has been found guilty of 21 offences relating to fire safety following the conclusion of a week-long Jury trial at Cardiff Crown Court.
Lewis Marshall stood accused of offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 dating back several years in relation to two neighbouring properties located on Chepstow Road in Newport.
The offences included a failure to maintain working fire alarms and emergency lighting systems. These measures are essential if occupants are to escape safely in the event of a fire. Further offences included a failure to keep escape routes clear and a lack of measures in place to prevent fire and smoke from spreading.
The prosecution arose following an inspection by officers from the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, who also discovered that Marshall had not ensured a suitable fire risk assessment had been carried out at the premises. Such an assessment is crucial to ensure that occupants are kept safe in the event of a fire.
During the hearing, the Jury heard how the fire precautions in the premises were wholly inadequate. Summing up, His Honour Judge Vosper QC expressed the view that Marshall had “buried his head in the sand… [and] simply not addressed” crucial fire safety requirements, despite the Fire and Rescue Service’s formal notices explaining exactly what work needed to be done.
During the inspections carried out by the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, conditions in one of the properties were found to be so dangerous that a Prohibition Notice was served, making it a criminal offence to occupy certain flats. However, this Prohibition Notice had been breached when, during a subsequent inspection, evidence was found proving that people were still using the flats as accommodation.
Protecting businesses from fire
Simon Roome, Group manager and head of the Business Fire Safety Department for the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, stated: “Our role is to work with businesses and landlords across South Wales to support them in protecting their businesses from the risk of fire. Those responsible for flats and houses in multiple occupation need to take note of this verdict and ensure that occupants of premises they look after are safe and that there are no breaches of fire safety regulations.”
Roome continued: “The fire safety legislation we enforce [the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005] is designed to keep occupants safe. Where we find breaches of this legislation, it’s our duty to take action in order to prevent serious injury or death.”
In conclusion, Roome observed: “The decision to prosecute businesses is never taken lightly. However, in this instance there was a serious risk posed to the residents. That risk was attributed directly to the actions of the individual responsible.”
Marshall is due to be sentenced next month.