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23 June 2022 | Comment | Article by Justin Davies

Hugh James acts for South Wales Fire & Rescue Service in significant fire safety case

Justin Davies recently acted for South Wales Fire and Rescue Service’s Business Fire Safety Department in its successful prosecution of Lewis Marshall, a Newport-based landlord. Mr Marshall was convicted of a total of 21 offences contrary to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

The investigation commenced following an inspection by South Wales Fire & Rescues Service, which revealed that Mr Marshall had not carried out a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment for the premises, a document that is crucial to ensure that occupants of premises are kept safe in the event of fire. Further offences were discovered, including failures to maintain fire alarm and emergency lighting systems, failure to keep escape routes clear, and a failure to put in place, implement and maintain measures to prevent the spread of smoke and flames. Those failures put relevant persons at risk of death or serious injury at two properties owned by Mr Marshall.

Conditions in one of Mr Marshall’s properties were found to be so dangerous that a Prohibition Notice was served, making it a criminal offence to occupy certain flats in the premises until the fire safety deficiencies identified had been rectified. A subsequent inspection of the premises revealed that the Prohibition Notice was being breached. Moreover, Enforcement Notices requiring the carrying out of remedial works were not complied with.

The case has been widely reported in the fire industry press, and Mr Marshall will be sentenced at Cardiff Crown Court on 14 July 2022.

Commenting on the case, Simon Roome, Group Manager and Head of Business Fire Safety at South Wales Fire & Rescue, said:

“Our role is to work with businesses and landlords across South Wales to support them to protect their businesses from the risk of fire. Those responsible for flats and houses in multiple occupation (HMO) need to take note of this verdict and ensure that occupants of premises they look after are safe and that they are not in breach of Fire Safety Regulations. The fire safety legislation we enforce, known as the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, is designed to keep occupants safe. Where we find breaches of this legislation it is our duty to take action to prevent death or serious injury. The decision to prosecute businesses is never taken lightly, however there was a serious risk to the residents, and this was attributed directly to the actions of the individual responsible.”

Author bio

Justin has specialised in criminal and regulatory law since qualification in 2007. He has particular experience of regulatory criminal proceedings instituted by Local Authorities and other non-police agencies, and spent time as a specialist regulatory prosecutor at Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, advising and prosecuting on behalf of its trading standards, public/environmental health and counter-fraud departments. Justin now practises in regulatory, corporate crime and allied areas, acting for both prosecution and defence. Justin holds (and regularly exercises) Higher Rights of Audience in Criminal Proceedings, which allows him to represent clients before the higher criminal courts.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.

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