London Fire Brigade

Former health spa boss gets suspended prison sentence for flouting fire safety laws

01 May 2013

The former owner and retired director of a Clapham health spa has been  handed a four month suspended prison sentence and ordered to pay £30,000 court costs for breaking fire safety laws.
The Brigade’s fire safety officers visited the Common Sense Natural Health Centre on Clapham Common South Side following a fire in July 2010. The blaze  saw 12 people dramatically rescued by fire crews, among them two women clinging to a window ledge  and two other people who had escaped onto the building’s roof.

Winsmill Limited (‘Winsmill’), the company that owned the health centre at the time of the fire, and director Ron Kemeny pleaded guilty to a total of seven offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order. The defendants were sentenced on Tuesday 30 April at Woolwich Crown Court.

When fire safety officers visited the health centre the day after the blaze they identified a number of  fire safety contraventions. These included a failure to equip the building with appropriate  fire detectors, no fire doors on the ground floor and no self-closing doors leading onto the building’s escape routes. The defendants were also unable to produce a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment.

Following the successful prosecution brought by the London Fire Brigade,  Assistant Commissioner for fire safety Steve Turek said: “This was a very serious fire.  A number of people had to be rescued and the outcome could have been a lot worse. The sentence handed down today sends out a clear message that we will not hesitate to prosecute if we believe that building owners are ignoring their responsibilities under fire safety laws. It also shows that they will face serious penalties if they put lives at risk.”

His Honour Judge S Dawson sentenced Winsmill to a fine of £2,000 for failing to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of risk at the premises; a fine of £2,000 for failing to appropriately equip the premises with fire detectors; a fine of £2,000 for of failing to ensure that persons can evacuate the premises as quickly and safely as possible due to the lack of self closing doors leading onto escape routes; and a fine of £2,000 for of failing to ensure that persons can evacuate the premises as quickly and safely as possible due to no fire doors at ground floor level.

For consenting conniving or being neglectful in the commission of these offences by Winsmill,  Mr Kemeny was sentenced to sentence four month suspended jail sentence (suspended for 12 months) in respect of the failure to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of risk ; for the failure to appropriately equip the premises with fire detectors and for no fire doors on the ground floor. 

The fire broke out at the four storey health centre at around 12.50pm on Sunday, 4 July 2010 and was brought under control by around 2.25pm. At the time a number of people were having treatments or using the facilities, including sunbeds and in one case a flotation tank.

Four fire engines attended the blaze and a total of 12 people were rescued from the building by fire crews, with a further eight managing to escape before the Brigade arrived. Six people were taken to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation.

The cause of the fire was found by London Fire Brigade’s fire investigators to be an electrical fault in a tanning booth.


Notes to editors
• Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, employers or those who have control over a premises (known as the ‘responsible person’) are required by law to carry out a fire risk assessment and act on its findings. The risk assessment should also identify actions which need to be taken in order to protect the building from fire. It must be kept under constant review and amended if any changes are made to the premises.
• London Fire Brigade carries out around 16,000 fire inspections of premises each year and although the majority of buildings are managed well in regard to fire, there are still too many buildings that do not have an adequate fire risk assessment and as a result have fire exits blocked, inadequate fire alarms or poor training for staff. The Brigade can and does prosecute companies or individuals if there are breaches to fire legislation and though court action is a last resort, recent cases show that the courts will issue fines or even consider prison sentences for serious cases.