Hotelier fined £200,000 for breaking fire safety rules

20 June 2008
Hotelier fined £200,000 for breaking fire safety rules

The owner of a Suffolk hotel has been fined a total of more than £200,000 after serious fire safety irregularities were discovered.

John Nevin, 59, of the Brandon House hotel in Brandon, admitted breaching fire service regulations when he appeared before Ipswich Crown Court.

The court heard that, after buying the 22-bedroom hotel in 2003, Nevin began a conversion programme without proper consideration of fire safety rules.

Evidence was given that when fire officers visited in 2004 they found that a function room had been converted into bedrooms without a proper fire escape being installed.

And during a second visit in 2006, fire officers were so concerned about fire safety that they served a prohibition notice preventing use of the second floor until changes had been made.

In mitigation it was said that the situation had now been rectified and that the hotel was fully compliant with all fire regulations.

In passing sentence Judge John Holt said: "The potential for risk of serious injury to guests while they slept in your hotel was considerable."

Nevins, who the court was told had assets of £10m, was fined £145,000 with £58,000 costs.

In March the Liberal Democrats published a report criticising hotels and B&Bs for failing to comply with the new fire regulations introduced last autumn.

Trevor Dean, the operations manager for fire safety at health and safety consultancy National Britanniak, warned operators they must take new fire safety regulations seriously.

"Those who ignore warnings and are prosecuted for contravening the order face fines at magistrates court of up to £5,000 per offence," he said.

"If the case is serious enough to go to Crown Court, the offender can be handed an unlimited fine or even a jail term of up to two years, as seen in the case of Nevins. In other words the cost of flouting the rules can seriously mount up."

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By Andrew Smith

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