Church pleads guilty to fire safety offences
A church organisation has been ordered to pay £30,000 in fines and costs after pleading guilty to breaches of fire safety legislation following a prosecution brought by London Fire Brigade.
The organisation – Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries International – pleaded guilty to three contraventions of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Sentencing occurred on Friday 24 July 2009 at Woolwich Crown Court.
The Church held its services at Crabtree Manorway South in Erith. A prohibition notice was issued in June 2007 restricting to 600 the number of people on the ground floor of the premises.
But when the premises were inspected by the fire brigade in January 2008, around 1200 people were found to be in the main hall during a service. One fire exit could not be accessed as it was blocked by a steel bar, while another adjoining fire exit was chained and locked. The risk of an explosive and fast spreading fire was increased by what was described as the haphazard storage of 18 LPG and butane bottles and the use of naked flame heaters inside the main hall.
“It is regrettable that we had to bring this action against a charitable church organisation but there were significant fire safety failures,” commented Steve Turek, assistant commissioner for fire safety regulation. “These offences presented a real risk of injury to the congregation who are our main concern. Church groups and others which organise large gatherings need to make sure their premises are fit for purpose and that they take their responsibility very seriously to ensure the safety to visitors.