London Fire Brigade

Brixton shop owner handed suspended sentence for breaking fire safety laws

10 May 2016

The leaseholder of a Brixton food and wine shop with a flat above has received a two-month suspended prison sentence for breaking fire safety laws after we successfully prosecuted them.

At the sentencing hearing at Inner London Crown Court, on Friday (6 May), Arunthavachelvan Jegatheepan was also ordered to do 100 hours of unpaid community work.

Owner admits four offences

Mr Jegatheepan admitted four offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, including breaching a prohibition notice preventing the first floor of the premises from being used as sleeping and living accommodation.

Our fire safety inspectors first visited S N Food & Wine on Brixton Road in August 2013.

The building consists of a food and wine shop on the ground floor and residential accommodation on the first floor made up of two bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom.

Number of fire safety concerns

Inspectors raised a number of fire safety concerns when they visited the first floor saying they posed an 'imminent risk of serious personal injury'. These included:

  • insufficient fire resistance between the residential accommodation and the means of a escape from the first floor
  • inadequate fire detection
  • no evidence of an  emergency plan or fire risk assessment

Due to the risk posed to people sleeping there, we immediately issued a prohibition notice preventing the use of the first floor as residential and sleeping accommodation.

We also issued an enforcement notice requiring the fire safety deficiencies identified to be put right by December of 2013.

During a follow up visit in November 2013, we found people were still sleeping on the first floor of the property and afurther visit in October 2014 found the fire alarm panel in the living accommodation still had no power.

'Could have put people's lives at risk'

Following the sentencing hearing, Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Dan Daly, said: "The accommodation above this shop could have put people's lives at risk. 

"If a fire had broken out anyone living and sleeping there would not have been able to safely escape.

"Those responsible for buildings have a clear legal responsibility to ensure that the people living and working there are safe from fire.

"In this case, not only were those responsibilities being flouted before we visited the premises, the leaseholder continued to ignore them even after we had carried out our safety inspection.

"This case also demonstrates the proactive and professional work of our fire safety inspecting officers, in seeking to identify and improve fire safety across London."

Ordered to pay £8,000 legal costs

In addition to the suspended custodial sentence for breaching fire safety regulations, Mr Jegatheepan was ordered to pay £8,000 towards legal costs.

Mr Jegatheepan had pleaded guilty to the following offences at an earlier hearing under the Regulatory Reform (Fire safety) Order 2005.

  1. Not having a fire risk assessment
  2. Inadequate fire detection and smoke alarms
  3. Breach of a prohibition notice preventing the use of the first floor as residential accommodation
  4. Compromised compartmentation of the single escape route from the first floor accommodation