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Sheffield landlord sentenced for violating fire safety laws

17 June 2024

LANDLORD ZAHIR Ahmed has been sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for 18 months, in addition to 250 hours of community service after admitting to violations of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Ahmed, of Bannerdale Road in Sheffield, appeared at Sheffield Crown Court on 6 June, having pleaded guilty (at an earlier hearing held on 9 May at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court) to six charges of failing to comply with articles under the Fire Safety Order.

Eleven people were trapped inside Ahmed’s building located on Brookhill Road in Sheffield when fire broke at around 3.25 am on 25 February 2022. Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus managed to locate the individuals, remaining with them until the blaze was fully extinguished and the property could be ventilated.

The single staircase inside the property also collapsed during the fire, causing a firefighter to fall through the stairs.

During a post-incident investigation, inspecting officers from the South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service found no fire alarm or emergency lighting at the premises in parallel with a poor standard of fire doors on-site and a lack of staircase ventilation.

Custodial sentence

His Honour Judge Robinson concluded that there must be a custodial sentence handed down given the seriousness of the offences, the fact that they relate to two premises and multiple breaches of the Fire Safety Order and that there was a real risk of serious harm.

Ahmed was sentenced to six months in prison on each of the offences to run concurrently. The sentence is suspended for 18 months. He will be required to complete 250 hours of unpaid work for the benefit of the community and has been ordered to pay £10,000 of prosecution costs at £1,000 per month.

Handing down the sentence, His Honour Judge Robinson, said: “Mr Ahmed was wilfully not caring about the safety of individuals. There had been a dreadful fire, which resulted in a firefighter falling through the stairs. It could have been catastrophic and was, in my view, a near fatal fire episode.”

Skilled professionals

Deputy chief fire officer Andy Strelczenie from the South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service noted: “Landlords and other ‘Responsible Persons’ are responsible for preventing fires in the first instance. Should a fire then occur in a building for which they are responsible, other protection measures then become absolutely critical.”

Strelczenie continued: “This fire could have had a catastrophic outcome had it not been for the highly skilled professionalism of our firefighters. Due to the lack of fire safety systems and management, it was extremely fortuitous that people didn’t die.”

In conclusion, Strelczenie observed: “This sentence is a reminder to all ‘Responsible Persons’ that we can and will prosecute them when they fail to adhere to the laws which are there to keep people safe.”

In flats of this type, a suitable fire risk assessment is expected to have been carried out, which would duly identify the necessary fire safety measures such as fire alarms, emergency lighting, evacuation strategy and appropriate protected escape routes to be managed by a ‘Responsible Person’.

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service works closely with businesses and landlords alike to ensure they comply with fire safety regulations. Inspectors are available to offer practical advice and assistance in this area.