Suspended jail sentence issued to former Bath landlord
28 August 2023
AVON FIRE and Rescue Service has welcomed the outcome of a court case in which a Bath-based former landlord was successfully prosecuted for failing to comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Norman Butcher, the ‘Responsible Person’ at The Rising Sun pub located at 3-4 Grove Street in Bath, was sentenced on 18 August at Bristol Crown Court.
The prosecution was brought by the Avon Fire and Rescue Service following a significant fire at the premises on 21 September last year. On the night of the fire, 16 guests were staying at the premises. They reported that a fire alarm sounded for a few seconds at approximately 2.00 am before falling silent.
At 2.48 am, a passer-by called 999 to report a fire escaping from the roof of the property. Guests were swiftly evacuated. One of them sustained a burn injury.
A subsequent investigation by the Avon Fire and Rescue Service’s Business Fire Safety Team members identified three breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005: a failure to ensure that appropriate procedures to be followed were in place in the event of a fire, a failure to ensure that fire safety precautions were properly maintained and making false entries in the premises fire safety logbook.
Butcher initially appeared at Bristol Magistrates’ Court on 2 June this year whereupon he pleaded guilty to two of the three charges levelled against him. A subsequent hearing at Bristol Crown Court on 3 July witnessed him entering a guilty plea for all three charges.
In summing up the sentencing at Bristol Crown Court on 18 August, His Honourable Judge Patrick said: “There are several tragedies in this case. It is only by the grace of God that a more serious tragedy did not occur. You [Mr Butcher] played fast and loose with people’s safety. You were aware in July 2022 of the need to address the fire safety deficiencies [at the premises] and you didn’t do so. The fire was serious. After the fire, you falsified documents, making this case even more serious in nature.”
Butcher was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment, suspended for 15 months, and is required to complete 150 hours’ worth of unpaid work for each charge. The sentences are to run concurrently.
Avon Fire and Rescue Service’s Business Fire Safety Team leader Robert White stated: “We are satisfied with the outcome of this case and believe the sentence reflects the severity of the charges. ‘Responsible Persons’ who provide sleeping accommodation have a duty to ensure that there are adequate procedures in place to safely evacuate their premises in the event of fire and that those procedures are implemented.”
White continued: “We would like to remind all businesses that they need to take their fire safety duties imposed on them by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 seriously and protect the lives of people in the community.”
He added: “Avon Fire and Rescue Service runs a dedicated Business Fire Safety Team whose members will always provide advice to businesses. However, when serious failings are found, and persons are put at risk of death or serious injury, we have a duty to prosecute those who fail to carry out their responsibilities.”
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 applies to all non-domestic premises in England and Wales. A ‘Responsible Person’ must carry out a fire safety risk assessment and implement and maintain a fire management plan.
Avon Fire and Rescue Service works closely with businesses to ensure they comply with the regulations. Our officers are available to offer practical advice and assistance in this area.”
*For more information on the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and keeping premises safe from fire visit www.avonfire.gov.uk/business-safety