Main menu

Walsall hotel owner jailed for fire safety breaches

06 May 2014

The owner of a hotel in Walsall has been jailed for 12 months on account of breaching fire safety regulations.

An investigation into the premises revealed the fire exit on the first floor had been blocked by mattresses, while the fire alarms were deemed to be faulty. There were also obstructions found on the landing and the emergency lighting was not working properly, according to the Express and Star. 

The Bescot Hotel in Walsall, which was owned by Manjit Takhar of Perton Road, Perton, was visited by officers from Wolverhampton Fire Safety Centre, after a customer complained. 

It transpired a blaze could easily have ravaged the basement, which is where the main electricity supply was located.

In 2009, inspection officers demanded these fire safety breaches needed to be attended to as soon as possible.

However, less than one week later, they discovered there was no suitable fire risk assessment in place, despite Mr Takhar being responsible for fire safety in the hotel.

In addition to this, fire alarms had not been adequately maintained or tested, while some bedrooms were lacking smoke detectors, action notices or fire alarm sounders. 

When the alarm was tested, officers realised it could not be heard in all parts of the hotel, which had 33 bedrooms, meaning if a fire were to break out, some residents would be greatly endangered. 

Furthermore, there did not seem to be any fire drills or staff training.

Mr Mark Jackson, who was prosecuting, said: "An inspection revealed fire safety breaches, each of which presented a risk of serious injury or death in the case of fire.

"The basement contained all of the main electricity supply. It also contained combustible materials. There was no ceiling and so a fire in the basement could easily have spread to the ground floor. There was no fire detection in the basement of the hotel."

In light of these failings, the officers served a prohibition notice, which ordered certain parts of the hotel to no longer be used for sleeping accommodation or certain other purposes. 

Judge Michael Challinor said: "This hotel was a death trap. There was a reckless disregard for the safety of guests and staff."

Mr Takhar was jailed for 12 months as a result of the breaching eight counts of fire safety regulations. He started running the establishment in 2006, but it subsequently closed and has been converted into a care home, which is being run by his son, following his bankruptcy in 2013. 

Elsewhere in the UK, the company that runs a care home in Kenley, Croydon was recently accused of fire safety breaches. 

Morven House on Uplands Road was found to be without a functioning smoke alarm and a fire risk assessment. There was no emergency route or exit that would allow residents to evacuate the building safely. Furthermore, there was no strategy in place to warn them if a fire were to start.

A plea case and management hearing is set to take place on May 27th.

Commercial buildings, non-domestic and multi-occupancy premises in England and Wales are already forced to undertake a 'suitable and sufficient' fire risk assessment carried out under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

While the overwhelming majority of premises do this, if the assessment is thought to have been carried out to an insufficient extent, the Responsible Person can face an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison.

Posted by Kat Schabowska