Author Bio ▼

Adam Bannister is a freelancer journalist who has held various editorial positions, including as editor of SHP's partner publication for security & fire safety, IFSEC Insider (formally IFSEC Global).
November 4, 2019

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Fire safety

Fines for fire safety breaches have soared since Grenfell

The average fine handed down for breaches of the Fire Safety Order has risen sharply since the fire at Grenfell Tower in 2017.

fire-safety-orderReviewing 200 of his cases brought under the legislation, fire safety solicitor Warren Spencer found that the average fine since the tragedy is £27,519, more than a third (35%) higher than the average across 2014-2019, which is £20,375.

His research, published to mark the 13th anniversary of the legislation coming into force, also found that three fire services have not brought a single prosecution under the order.

The ground-breaking study reveals that the most enforced part of the order is Article 14, which relates to emergency routes and exits. And of Spencer’s 200 cases only nine defendants have pleaded not guilty to all charges brought.

The research might be the most detailed analysis yet of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, to give it its full name.

“All of the data relating to sentencing comes from my own records as I am not aware that there has been any other analysis relating to this since the Fire Safety Order came into effect,” said Spencer. “There are some interesting patterns and a sharp increase in the average fine imposed since Grenfell.”

Spencer, who topped the fire safety category in the IFSEC Global Security & Fire Influencers 2018, was taken aback by the extent of his involvement.

“For me, the most surprising aspect of the government figures was that there had been approximately 560 prosecutions between October 2006 and March 2018,” said Spencer. “If this is correct, then I have been involved in over a third of all prosecutions brought under the order, which makes our figures statistically relevant.”

The standout numbers

  • Out of 200 cases only nine defendants have pleaded not guilty to all charges brought;
  • Article 14 relating to emergency routes and exits is the most enforced;
  • The most prosecutions by a single fire service is 120;
  • Three fire services have not brought any prosecutions since the order came into force 13 years ago;
  • A total of £1,230,879 has been handed out in fines;
  • The average fine between 2014-2019 was £20,375;
  • Average fine Post Grenfell was £27,519.

The study drew on government statistics and information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act as well as primary data from Spencer’s own cases.

Spencer, who has prosecuted and defended fire safety cases for over 12 years, has written the first in a series of articles examining his findings across four areas: breaches prosecuted, premises prosecuted, prosecuting fire services and sentencing. He also considers enforcement notices, defences typically deployed by defendants, the Grenfell effect and why so many defendants plead guilty.

Warren Spencer has conducted numerous enforcement and prohibition notice appeals brought under the Fire Safety Order. As a Higher Courts Advocate he can work as an advocate in the Crown Court.

This article was originally published on IFSEC Global.

Fire Safety in 2023 eBook

SHP's sister site, IFSEC Insider has released its annual Fire Safety Report for 2023, keeping you up to date with the biggest news and prosecution stories from around the industry.

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Plus, explore the growing risks of lithium-ion battery fires and hear from experts in disability evacuation and social housing.

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