A Nottingham business which provides residential accommodation in Nottingham city centre and its director were sentenced at Nottingham Crown Court yesterday (Thursday 19 January) after admitting breaching fire safety regulations under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
Nottingham Student Lettings Limited and its sole director, Robert Singh, 52, pleaded guilty to five offences relating to accommodation in the city's Castle Gate.
Nottingham Student Lettings Limited was fined £150,000 and ordered to pay costs of £40,000; Mr Singh was sentenced to three months imprisonment suspended for 12 months and ordered to pay £5,000 in costs.
Passing sentence, HHJ Rafferty QC said if a fire had occurred in the building, death was not simply highly probable, but an 'inevitability'.
"It could not be said within any degree of realism to have been a safe building," Judge Rafferty said. "It was far from it."
He added: "The risk of death was not theoretical, it could well have occurred."
The offences included failing to comply with a Prohibition Notice issued by Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service on 1 October 2013, and failing to comply with an Enforcement Notice served later that same month.
The Court heard that, despite being given an extended compliance period until March 2014, Mr Singh had failed to provide a suitable and sufficient Fire Risk Assessment for the premises, had not provided adequate means of escape, fire detection or emergency lighting, and had failed to provide the appropriate fire safety training for his staff.
Fire Protection Officers from Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service first visited the premises in 2013 and found a number fire safety breaches, including a void over four floors where a staircase should have been. Smoke alarms were capped off, electrical wiring was exposed, and the only way into and out of the building was via a staircase with an industrial laundry on one of its landings.
At the time, 23 students were resident in the east wing of the property, which was subject to the Prohibition Notice, with space for up to 133 residents across the whole building.
Station Manager Tom Clark, of Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service's Fire Protection Investigation Team, said: "The city of Nottingham is reliant on its businesses and student population for its economy, and naturally we want everyone who lives, works, studies and visits here to be able to do so with the knowledge that our city is safe.
"Regrettably, not only did Mr Singh put the young people living at his property at serious risk in the event of a fire, he refused to follow the advice of Fire Inspection Officers in how he could make the appropriate improvements to remove the risks, and meet current fire safety legislation.
"There are a great many responsible and conscientious business owners who work hard to ensure they meet the relevant legal requirements, and that their staff and members of the public safe from fire.
"We are committed to working alongside any business to help them maintain this; however, when businesses fail to take notice of their legal obligations and the advice of the fire and rescue service, we will, as a last resort, take legal action against them."
Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service can advise business owners and occupiers on how to meet the relevant Fire Safety legislation and ensure that staff, customers and visitors to their premises are kept safe from fire. For fire safety advice and guidance visit www.notts-fire.gov.uk, contact the Service's Fire Safety advice line on 0115 957 5200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .