Off-licence owner convicted of fire safety breaches

The owner of an off-licence in Salford has been fined £22,000 and ordered to pay more than £4,000 in costs after being convicted of nine offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Tahair Mahmood Arif of Matthews Lane, Levenshulme pleaded guilty to the offences at Manchester City magistrates’ court on 2 August.

Fire safety officers inspected the premises on 11 April 2011 after Salford City Council raised concerns about the safety of the property. At the time, the ground floor of the three storey building was being used as a shop and the upper floors were being used as living accommodation.

The court heard that the only way up to the sleeping accommodation was an open wooden stairway from the shop, which was surrounded by highly combustible items.

There was no fire alarm and the fire doors to the storage areas were wedged open. The back yard was piled over six feet high with rubbish, preventing anyone from escaping into the yard, said the prosecution.

Officers also found that all of the windows on the first floor were secured with external metal roller shutters.

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service issued a prohibition notice preventing anyone using the first and second floors and two days later issued an enforcement notice. But when officers revisited the premises in June, they found that the work specified had not been carried out and that the upper floors were still being used.

Warren Spencer, prosecuting for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Authority, told the court that the lack of alarm and blocked escape routes meant that if a fire had occurred there would have been nowhere to escape to. When officers visited again in April 2012 the upper floors were still in use despite the prohibition notice remaining in force.

Sentencing, chair of the bench William Smith, said: “This is a very serious situation and the risk to life and limb of people using the upper floors was phenomenal. If a fire had occurred, the condition of the property would have posed a serious risk to members of the fire service trying to rescue people from the building.”