Avon Fire & Rescue Service (AF&RS) has welcomed the outcome of a court case in which a Bath former landlord was successfully prosecuted for failing to comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
Norman Butcher, the Responsible Person of The Rising Sun Public House of 3-4 Grove Street, Bath, was sentenced on Friday 18 August 2023 at Bristol Crown Court.
The prosecution was brought by AF&RS following a significant fire at the premises on Grove Street, Bath on 21 September 2022. On the night of the fire, 16 guests were staying overnight, and reported a fire alarm sounded for a few seconds at approximately 2am before falling silent.
At 2:48am, a passer-by called 999 to report a fire coming out of the roof of the property. Guests were swiftly evacuated, and one guest sustained a burn injury.
A subsequent investigation by AF&RS Business Fire Safety Team identified three breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, namely: failure to ensure that appropriate procedures to be followed were in place in the event of a fire, failure to ensure that fire safety precautions were properly maintained and making false entries in the premises fire safety logbook.
Mr Butcher appeared at Bristol Magistrates Court on 2 June 2023 where he pleaded guilty to two of the three charges against him and at a subsequent hearing at Bristol Crown Court on 3 July 2023, he entered a guilty plea for all three charges.
In summing up the sentencing at Bristol Crown Court on 18 August 2023, His Honourable Judge Patrick said: “There are several tragedies in this case – it is only by the grace of God that a more serious tragedy did not occur. You [Mr Butcher] played fast and loose with people’s safety. You were aware in July 2022 of the need to address the fire safety deficiencies and you didn’t. The fire was serious. After the fire you falsified documents making this case even more serious.”
Mr Butcher was sentenced to nine months imprisonment, suspended for 15 months, and 150 hours of unpaid work for each charge, the sentences to run concurrently.
AF&RS Business Fire Safety Team Leader, Robert White, said: “We are satisfied with the outcome of this case and believe the sentence passed down reflects the severity of the charges.
“Responsible people who provide sleeping accommodation have a duty to ensure that there are adequate procedures in place to safely evacuate their premises in the event of fire and that those procedures are implemented.
“We would like to remind all businesses that they need to take their fire safety duties imposed on them by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 seriously to protect the lives of people in our community.
“Avon Fire and Rescue Service have a dedicated Business Fire Safety Team who will always provide advice to businesses, however when serious failings are found, and persons are put at risk of death or serious injury we have a duty to prosecute those who fail to carry out their responsibilities.”
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 applies to all non-domestic premises in England and Wales. A responsible person must carry out a fire safety risk assessment and implement and maintain a fire management plan.
AF&RS works closely with businesses to ensure they comply with the regulations; officers are available to offer practical advice and assistance in this area.