London Fire Brigade

Landlord receives suspended prison sentence for breaking fire safety laws

13 March 2013

A landlord who rented out rooms in a disused Kentish Town pub has received a suspended prison sentence and ordered to carry out 100 hours of community service for breaking fire safety laws.

London Fire Brigade says the case highlights the increasing problem and fire risk of unsuitable buildings being rented out as sleeping accommodation in the capital. Properties such as disused pubs, so-called ‘beds in sheds,’ garages or industrial units  are all potentially lethal fire traps as it is inevitable that people living in them will rely on far riskier ways of heating, cooking and lighting.

Leaseholder of the former Tavern Inn the Town on Castle Road, Anthony O’Leary, pleaded guilty to five offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order and was sentenced on Tuesday (12 March)  at Blackfriars Crown Court.

Following concerns  raised about the building  by the police the Brigade’s fire safety officers carried out a fire safety audit of the premises on 29 January 2010.

They identified a number of fire safety concerns, chiefly the lack of any fire detection system and inadequate means of escape from the building. As a result a prohibition notice was issued preventing the former pub being used as sleeping accommodation until these  issues were addressed.

In July that year fire safety officers returned to the building and found a number of tenants living in the former pub, using mattresses on the floor for sleeping. During interviews both O’Leary and the property’s manager, Joseph McConville, admitted that they were  aware of the prohibition notice and that the pub was  being used as  sleeping accommodation.

Passing sentence on Tuesday, His Honour, Judge Pillay said it was merely good fortune that had prevented a serious incident occurring at the former pub and that  the case was so serious that only a custodial sentence would be appropriate.

O’Leary was sentenced to six months imprisonment for  each offence of: failure to provide a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment; having inadequate fire detection and alarms; failure to protect the means of escape and lack of emergency lighting.  He received  nine months imprisonment  for the breach of a prohibition notice. All sentences were suspended for two years  and are to run concurrently.

Speaking after the sentencing London Fire Brigade’s  Assistant Commissioner for fire safety regulation Steve Turek said: “The issue of unsuitable buildings being rented out as accommodation continues to be a concern for London Fire Brigade and this verdict sends out a clear message that if building owners ignore their responsibilities under fire safety law we will not hesitate to prosecute and they will face serious penalties.”

Notes to editors:

Mr O’Leary was  jointly charged with Joseph McConville.  On 15th August Mr McConville was given a conditional discharge for a single offence of breaching a prohibition notice.