Publican sentenced over fire safety breaches

By Alice Leader

- Last updated on GMT

Danger to all: the inspection found serious deficiencies that put residents, hotel guests and staff members at risk
Danger to all: the inspection found serious deficiencies that put residents, hotel guests and staff members at risk

Related tags Fire protection Safety

The owner of the Foresters Arms pub and hotel has been convicted after admitting serious breaches of fire safety law after its standards “fell far short”.

Stuart Hulse appeared in Liverpool Crown Court on 3 February where he pleaded guilty on behalf of himself, and Foresters Arms Ltd, in Tarporley, to nine breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

He was sentenced to a four-month custodial sentence, which has been suspended for 12 months, and the company was also ordered to pay £2,250 in fines and £2,250 towards the costs of the investigation.

Judge Teague said: “The standard of fire safety undoubtedly fell far short. There were systematic failures that produced a number of breaches.”

The breaches came to light on 28 January 2019 after firefighters raised concerns following a chimney fire at the premises.

Consequently, a fire safety audit was undertaken by members of Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service’s protection team, which identified a number of serious deficiencies that put residents, hotel guests and staff members at risk of death or serious injury in the event of a fire.

Paramount importance

Following the sentencing, Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service area manager and head of protection Lee Shears said: “The safety of people living, visiting and sleeping in all premises such as this is of paramount importance.

“In this case, it was clear from our inspection there was a lack of fire safety precautions that put the lives of staff and hotel guests at risk.”

The audit also found the absence of fire detectors on the ground floor of the building in the staff accommodation and guest bedrooms.

The bedrooms that had detectors fitted with domestic alarms on the other hand, were not suitable for the size of the premises and did not work when tested.

The inspection found there was inadequate emergency lighting, none of the bedroom doors were fire doors and guests were expected to use a ladder to escape in the event of a fire.

Unacceptable flaws

Concerned by what it found, the team issued a prohibition notice and an enforcement notice, and began a prosecution case.

Shears added: “We immediately took action against the company to remedy the unacceptable safety flaws that were uncovered during a fire safety audit.

“I hope that today’s sentencing will act as a warning to other potential businesses who do not believe that fire safety is a priority.”

The prohibition notice, which prevented the use of the premises for sleeping accommodation, was lifted on 18 March 2019 after remedial work was undertaken to bring the premises up to the required standard.

The enforcement notice was withdrawn on 1 April 2019 following the completion of the work.

Avoid prosecution

Assistant chief fire officer Alex Waller said: “We encourage pub companies, hoteliers, landlords and leaseholders to review their fire risk assessments and ensure adequate fire safety precautions are provided.

“Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service aims to help and support any business to operate safely. However, action will be taken when companies choose not to treat fire safety as a legitimate and important business requirement.

“All companies are urged to take their fire safety obligations seriously to avoid prosecution.”

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