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June 30, 2020

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In court

Hotel owner sentenced for ‘extremely serious’ fire safety failings, including a switched off fire alarm

The owner of a hotel has been handed a nine-month sentence after putting ‘anyone staying on the premises at risk of death or serious injury,’ following a lengthy investigation.

fire-alarmsAlan Diamond, owner of the Cornhill Hotel in Blackpool, has been given a nine-month sentence suspended for 18 months after a two-year long investigation by Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service (LFRS).

In January 2019, the Blackpool seafront hotel was said to have failed to comply with nine of ten improvement notices handed out by the town’s health and safety officers, following evidence from police and LFRS. In 2018 the hotel had been ordered to closed temporarily by LFRS amid concerns about its ‘inadequate’ fire alarm system.

Numerous issues

Fire Safety Officer Stephen Simm had visited in May 2018, and reported that ‘numerous issues were seen, such as cracked tiles, no window restrictions, and loose fixtures and fittings’, while the police had seen officers take ‘at least’ 38 calls related to the hotel and its management that year, including ‘rows over the standard of rooms’, domestic incidents, fraud and theft.

However, LFRS added that in August 2018 the council health and safety department received a complaint from a paying guest who had stayed at the hotel, and ‘subsequently’ LFRS fire safety inspectors discovered the fire alarm system ‘was switched off with paying guests still staying at the hotel overnight’. They discovered a range of fire safety breaches ‘of such a serious nature that the decision was made to prohibit use of the hotel’.

These included ‘inadequate’ fire safety management, means of escape, means ‘for giving warning in the event of a fire’ and fire separation. The prohibition notice served ‘stated that nobody should use the premises other than to undertake remedial fire safety works’, but Mr Diamond ‘continued to accept paying guests and advertise the hotel on a number of internet websites’ – LFRS finding evidence on ‘three separate occasions’ of paying guests sleeping at the hotel.

Failings

Mr Simm added in early 2019 that ‘the issues were so serious I felt the property would put anyone staying on the premises at risk of death or serious injury’, while council health and safety officer Marcus Maddock served the improvement notices, having visited ‘numerous times’ in the last 11 months ‘due to various public complaints’.

Mr Diamond had submitted a letter to a hearing held in January 2019 stating that he had signed over the running of the hotel to another hotel group in the town, and added that most of the required work had been carried out, and that the new management company would be putting their own action plans in place.

LFRS however proceeded with a prosecution and legal proceedings, which set out a case against Mr Diamond for failing to:

  • Make a ‘suitable and sufficient’ fire risk assessment;
  • ‘Make and give effect to such arrangements as were appropriate’ for planning, organising, controlling, monitoring and reviewing preventative fire safety measures at the hotel;
  • ‘Provide appropriate firefighting equipment, detectors and alarms suitable for the premises’.

Other charges included that Mr Diamond had failed to ‘ensure that escape routes and exits could be used as quickly and as safely as possible’ by ‘failing to provide adequate’ fire doors throughout the premises. He was also charged with ‘failing to provide adequate and sufficient’ staff fire safety training, and failing to comply with the prohibition notice. After a ‘number’ of court appearances, he pleaded guilty in February to offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

At the Preston Crown Court hearing, where Mr Diamond was sentenced, LFRS Fire Protection Group Manager Mark Hutton said: “These were extremely serious fire safety failings which, had a fire occurred in the hotel, were highly likely to have led to widespread loss of life, serious injuries and potentially far-reaching damage to the wider community and reputation of Blackpool as a safe place to visit and stay.

“Our team of dedicated fire safety inspectors, and business safety advisors, work tirelessly to support all businesses that set out to comply with fire safety regulations. Sadly in this case the owner of this business chose not only to ignore that support, but also elected to repetitively breach a prohibition notice and allow his building to be used for guest sleeping accommodation even though he knew there were serious problems with fire doors and the fire alarm.

“Members of the public who expect to be able to book safe sleeping accommodation, and other businesses who are competing in the same marketplace and choose to invest in and embrace fire safety, should be in no doubt that when situations like this occur, and the regulations are flouted, [LFRS] and its inspectors will not hesitate to gather evidence and take those issues to the courts.”

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