Chippenham pub firm fined over fire safety breach

A pub management company has been convicted of fire safety breaches at North Wiltshire Magistrates’ Court today.

Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service took out the prosecution against Publicana Ltd after finding a number of breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

At the hearing, Publicana Ltd pleaded guilty to four charges and was fined £5,000 for each offence, as well as being ordered to cover prosecution costs. However, in light of the early guilty plea, these fines were reduced to a total of £15,000.

The offences came to light after Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service attended an incident at the Little George public house in New Road, Chippenham on 5 October 2008.

After an extensive investigation by officers of the Technical Fire Safety Department, charges were brought against Publicana Ltd as the tenants at that time.

The company had in turn contracted a licensee to run the pub on their behalf, and charges are still being pursued against this individual.

Among numerous fire safety failings that were discovered were fire doors and fire exits that had been screwed shut, multiple fire doors that had been propped open, obstructed escape routes, and failures to maintain any of the fire protection systems.

Publicana’s offences were based on the failure to carry out or record a fire risk assessment, failure to have effective policies for protection and prevention measures, and the failure to provide suitable and sufficient information to the sub-contractor.

Group Manager Julian Parsons, from Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service’s Technical Fire Safety Department, said: “It is rare for a Fire and Rescue Service to undertake prosecutions but, on this occasion, the offences were so severe we felt it was in the public interest to pursue charges.

“What this case has shown very clearly is that management companies always have a duty to ensure that public safety is not compromised, even if they have sub-contracted someone to act as licensee.”

He added: “Since these offences came to light, the Little George pub has changed management and subsequent inspections have shown that the issues highlighted by this case have been addressed. In addition, Publicana Ltd, which was cooperative throughout the investigation, has introduced stringent new management procedures to ensure that something like this does not happen again in premises it is responsible for.”