Fire and Rescue Service welcomes successful prosecution

September 15, 2023

Fire and Rescue Service welcomes successful prosecution following serious fire safety breaches

From our colleagues at Barbour EHS.

County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Authority has successfully prosecuted an owner and his company based in Peterlee, County Durham, following several serious fire safety breaches.

The hearing took place at Durham Crown Court, where the owner pleaded guilty to a total of eight charges, all relating to breaches of the Fire Safety Regulatory Reform Order 2005.

Following a fire safety inspection in October 2022, officers found nine people sleeping on the third floor of the Ridgemont House building, which by its purpose is an unoccupied office space. Other fire safety breaches discovered during the inspection included:

  • Failure to provide a fire risk assessment.
  • Failure to protect the means of escape.
  • A lack of sufficient fire doors or fire doors that were in a poor state of repair.
  • No suitable fire alarm system.
  • No fire safety drill procedure.
  • Defective emergency lighting.

Jonathan Smith, Fire Safety Manager for County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service said:

“This prosecution highlights that while we seek to work with business owners to maintain fire safety standards in premises, ultimately it is our duty as Business Fire Safety Officers to keep our communities safe. Although prosecution is a last resort, where there is a serious risk to our communities, we won’t hesitate to take action.”

Steve Helps, Chief Fire Officer at County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service said:

“[This] prosecution, led by our dedicated Business Fire Safety Team, marks a pivotal moment in upholding the integrity of fire safety regulations. We have a duty to ensure that businesses prioritise the safety of their employees, customers, and the public.

This case serves as a stark reminder to employers, managers and owners of similar establishments that they have a responsibility to ensure compliance with fire safety laws. We are unwavering in our commitment to safeguarding lives and property, conducting around 2,000 audits of business premises every year, which is almost four times above the normal delivery of fire and rescue services. We will continue to hold those who disregard these critical fire safety regulations accountable for their actions.”

John Shuttleworth, Chair of County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Authority said:

“We are committed to ensuring the highest standards of fire safety within our community. The safety of our residents and businesses lies at the heart of our vision of having a community with the Safest People, Safest Places. The verdict today serves as a testament to our unwavering dedication to upholding the law, protecting lives, and ensuring that every business, no matter its size, adheres to the essential fire safety regulations.

We will continue to work in collaboration with our communities and partners to maintain this standard of excellence, ensuring a safer and more secure future for all.”

The owner and company will appear at Durham Crown Court on 5 October 2023, for sentencing.

County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service
August 2023

Our Comment

This prosecution serves to remind everyone involved with providing living accommodation of the need to provide and maintain high standards of fire safety which are all underpinned by a comprehensive fire risk assessment completed by a competent fire safety professional.


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This content has been produced in association with our sister company, Barbour.

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