Record custodial sentence for breaching fire safety

There is no denying that all breaches of health and safety legislation are treated extremely seriously by the courts.

A recent sentence passed down by Blackpool Magistrates now holds the record for the longest custodial sentence handed down pursuant fire safety
legislation.  While the circumstances regarding this case are extreme, the record sentence serves as a useful reminder of the substantial penalties that courts can impose on businesses (and in some cases the directors and employees).

In June 2014, Peter Metcalf was arrested for numerous breaches of fire safety law at his Blackpool sea front hotel which it was alleged;

‘posed a real risk to the life of its inhabitants’.

The south promenade hotel was initially thought to be derelict, however the Blackpool Council were alerted when it became apparent four lodgers were in residence at the premises.

The council commenced an investigation with help from Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service which revealed 15 separate breaches of fire safety law
pursuant to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, including:

  • Lack of emergency lighting
  • Lack of a fire detection system
  • Lack of evacuation plan
  • All fire exits were blocked or locked (with chains) bar the entrance
  • The entrance had gas cylinders and combustible material piled in close proximity potentially leaving no escape in the event of a fireThe owner of the hotel, Mr Metcalf was found guilty of all 15 charges and handed an 18 month jail term and a £5243 fine.

Quantum Compliance’s Fire Safety Expert Comments