Pub landlord pleads guilty to eight fire safety offences

A pub landlord has pleaded guilty to eight fire safety offences after failing to understand he had become responsible for fire safety when his lease changed.

Robert Vincent Ashton of Westbourne Road, Swinton was given an 18-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £500 costs at Manchester City magistrates court on Tuesday 3 July.

The offences related to the Duke of York pub on Church Street, Eccles, and followed an inspection by Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service in August 2011.

The offences were: failing to make a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment; failing to ensure that routes to emergency exits were kept clear; failing to ensure adequate fire resistance to escape routes; failing to ensure that emergency routes and exits lead directly to a place of safety; failing to provide a suitable fire alarm; failing to provide adequate emergency lighting; failing to provided suitable and sufficient fire-fighting equipment; and failing to comply with a prohibition notice.

Paul Darnborough, prosecuting for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Authority, said that had a fire occurred rather than providing a safe escape the emergency routes would have provided a “corridor of smoke and fire that would trapped people upstairs”.

Mr Ashton pleaded guilty to all of the offences.

According to Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS), Mr Ashton said he had taken over the pub six years ago. In 2008 the pub was sold and he signed a new lease, which he had not understood made him responsible for fire safety. He said he had given up the lease on 1 May, as he was not being supported by the owners of the pub and was having to apply for bankruptcy.

The magistrates said the sentence was a departure from what they would usually hand out and, while reflecting the serious nature of the offences, it took into account Mr Ashton’s extensive mitigation and financial circumstances.

Assistant chief officer Peter O’Reilly, director of prevention and protection at GMFRS, said:

“We were right to bring this prosecution as members of the public had been put at risk – but the decision of the magistrates recognises that Ashton did not seek to put profit over safety but rather failed to understand his responsibilities.

“I hope that this case will encourage people setting up or entering businesses to ensure they research their legal responsibilities. Anyone entering into a lease arrangement must ensure they fully understand their obligations and the legal implications.”