Fines and prosecutions

A LACK of fire safety measures at Clermont Hall in Norfolk, which was advertised as a holiday house, meant that ‘serious injury or death’ could have occurred. Eastern Daily Press reported on

the prosecution of Olena Lobunets, who was responsible for the premises, at Norwich Magistrates’ Court, with the prosecution based around the witness statement of Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service’s safety officer, Christopher Soames. In a witness statement that was read to the court, Mr Soames related that he had visited the mansion in October 2016, at which time it was being advertised as a holiday house ‘sleeping up to 36 people’. He visited, as he had received

information that ‘there was a lack of fire safety control measures’, and he found that there were ‘serious fire safety breaches that would have resulted in serious injury or death of occupants if there was a fire’. These included no fire doors, no fire detection or warning alarms, no fire extinguishers, no emergency lights, no notices stating what to do in the

NEWS Mansion fire failings ‘could have resulted in death’

event of a fire, and an ‘excessive’ travel distance from all floors to the place of safety. After his inspection, Mr Soames

served a prohibition notice and visited the house again in May 2017, finding on that occasion that there had been ‘some minor changes’ but that the fire alarm system ‘was inadequate’, while the premises had an electricity supply from two large generators in the back gardens wired through the back window.

He then wrote to Ms Lobunets

for information on the premises, but without response. In March 2018, he visited the hall to meet her and discuss ‘the necessity of responding to the letters’, but she said that she ‘did not read them and instead put them straight in the bin’. At court, she was fined £2,000

and found guilty of two counts of failing without reasonable excuse to respond to a letter from a fire safety officer requiring information in respect of the premises

Suspended sentence for string of contraventions

JING ZHENG had allowed people to sleep above a takeway restaurant that had received a prohibition notice, with South Wales Fire and Rescue Service (SWFRS) prosecuting her for the breach. Ms Zheng, who owned New City Chinese Takeaway in Maesteg, was prosecuted after a string of contraventions dating back to 2015. In July of that year, business fire safety officers from SWFRS undertook a routine inspection, and found ‘serious’ fire safety failings relating to ‘the safety of occupants of the upstairs accommodation’. They believed there was an ‘imminent risk to life’ that required a prohibition notice to be served, preventing the first floor from use for residential purposes. Two years later in August 2017,

officers made an unannounced visit to the premises and discovered that it was again ‘being used for

residential purposes’, in a breach of the prohibition notice’s terms. ‘Some’ remedial work had been undertaken, but ‘not enough’ to make the upper floor safe. Ms Zheng was prosecuted in June at Cardiff Magistrates’ Court, and pleaded guilty to breaching the prohibition notice, as well as admitting that the premises ‘had, on four separate occasions, been used for residential purposes’. District Judge Bodfan Jenkins

committed her to the Crown Court for sentencing, as he considered the Magistrates’ Court’s sentencing powers ‘to be insufficient given the seriousness of the contraventions’. In early October, Cardiff Crown Court heard that the fire precautions on the premises ‘were wholly inadequate’, including a lack of fire alarms or emergency lighting, a lack of ‘necessary separation’ between the stairway and kitchen,

and combustible materials ‘being stored inappropriately’. Ms Zheng ‘was well aware’ that

the prohibition notice was in force, ‘but had chosen to disregard it’ and allow people to sleep on the first floor. In sentencing Ms Zheng, Judge Vosper stated that the breaches of fire regulations ‘posed a serious risk to life’, and recommended a sentence of imprisonment for nine months’, but said that this should be reduced to six months ‘in recognition of the defendant having pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity’. Taking her ‘family circumstances

and lack of previous convictions’ into account, the judge suspended the sentence for a year and fined Ms Zheng £10,000. She was also ordered to pay full costs to SWFRS of £7,576 within six months, with failure to do so leading to imprisonment for six months DECEMBER 2018/JANUARY 2019 11

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