The owner of a Warrington care home at which a 90-year-old resident accidentally set fire to himself while smoking has been fined more than £60,000 for “serious breaches” of fire safety regulations

17 October 2022

Ashberry Healthcare Limited, which ran the former Heathercroft Care Home in Woolston until 2021, pleaded guilty to three counts of failing to comply with the Fire Safety (Regulatory Reform) Order 2005 in a hearing at Warrington Crown Court on Tuesday 11 October.

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service brought the charges after firefighters were called to the home by carers on 21 May 2018. The carers had found Henry Robinson on fire in an outdoor smoking shelter. Tragically, Robinson died on the way to Whiston Hospital as a result of suffering a heart attack.

Inspecting officers found that an individual risk assessment to enable Robinson to smoke safely had gone missing. Their audit also uncovered two defects in the building’s ‘compartmentation’, potentially allowing smoke and flames to spread in the event of a fire episode.

In sentencing, Judge Jack McGarva said the decision to allow Robinson to smoke unsupervised did not cause his death. However, the Judge said it was “unforgivable” that deficiencies in a safe system of work led to it taking three minutes and 43 seconds for anyone to respond to him pressing the shelter’s call button.

Judge McGarva ordered Ashberry Healthcare Limited which is based at iMex House on Maxted Road in Hemel Hempstead to pay a total of £62,000 in fines as well as costs of £17,500.

Welcoming the sentencing, Lee Shears (assistant chief fire officer for Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service) said: “This has been a very distressing case for the firefighters who attended the fire, the care staff at the home, ambulance crews and our inspecting officers. Our thoughts are with Henry Robinson’s loved ones.”

Shears continued: “Mr Robinson’s final moments serve as a reminder to care providers of the importance of having in place and more importantly, following detailed individual risk assessments for all residents who smoke. Such residents are particularly vulnerable if they have mobility problems or are treated with emollient creams, which render the skin, clothing and bedding “highly flammable.”

In conclusion, Shears stated: “We work hard to help care providers understand their responsibilities when it comes to fire safety. As this tragic case highlights, there are serious consequences for failing to comply.”