In a warning to hoteliers and other commercial property owners that breaches of fire safety rules can lead to imprisonment, a businessman whose hotel was described as a ‘death trap’ which put the lives of staff and guests at risk was hit with a jail sentence.
Fire inspectors had uncovered a ‘catalogue’ of life-threatening fire safety breaches when they visited the hotel in 2009. Despite an earlier warning from the fire service, the businessman had, amongst other things, failed to ensure that fire exits were clear, that alarms worked properly and that fire-fighting equipment was properly maintained.
The businessman, who had been made bankrupt after his 40-bedroom hotel closed, was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment in May 2014 after he admitted 11 counts of breaching fire regulations. The sentencing judge said, "This hotel, on any view, was a death trap…the breaches were not deliberate but there was a reckless disregard for the safety of guests and staff at the hotel."
In challenging his sentence before the Court of Appeal, the businessman’s lawyers pointed to his failing health, remorse and the long delay in his prosecution which was due to no fault of his own. The Court found that the custodial threshold had undoubtedly been crossed but went on to halve his jail term to six months.