Fire Safety Prosecution

12 Apr Property company told to pay £460k following fatal retirement home blaze

A property company responsible for managing a retirement home has been ordered to pay a massive fine for fire safety offences. After a fire led to the death of an elderly woman; FirstPort, formerly Peverel Management Services, were prosecuted and fined for a massive £360,000 plus a further £100,000.

The company pleaded guilty in July last year to four offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

These Included;

·        Failure to make a proper fire risk assessment of the building,

·        Failure to take general fire precautions (including fire barriers in the roof space),

·        Failure to correctly train staff in following emergency procedures and carrying out fire risk assessments.

At an inquest into the death of the elderly resident, Mrs Irene Cockerton, Surrey coroner Richard Travers said the fire was initially considered to be manageable. This was reinforced by the fact house manager, Marion Debeer, gave residents tea and biscuits rather than evacuating them.

Judge Climie said the ‘’Near total destruction of the roofing’’ had been caused by the fact there were no external vents from residents’ kitchens, which were instead vented into the roof space. The vents had built up deposits of grease and oil from cooking, which prevented them from working properly, causing the fire to spread.

Following the sentencing, Nigel Gray, Assistant Group Commander at Surrey Fire and Rescue Service, said: “A fire which began in a television set spread rapidly across the retirement home’s entire roof and became a devastating blaze which forced firefighters to return several times to a burning building to rescue vulnerable residents and sadly led to the death of one of them.

“Our thoughts remain with the family of Irene Cockerton at this time. “The fine imposed in this case is one of the biggest that we know of for a breach of fire safety regulations and we hope it sends a clear message to businesses to take seriously their responsibilities to keep people safe from fire.

“We will always work with businesses to help them comply with fire safety laws but where we find breaches which risk lives or serious injury we won’t hesitate to prosecute.”

Emma Trafford
Emma.Trafford@macdonald-martin.co.uk
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