London Fire Brigade

Two jailed after Wood Green pub declared ‘potential death trap’

06 July 2015

The former manager and leaseholder of a Wood Green public house have been jailed for nearly six months for breaking fire safety laws following a successful prosecution by the Brigade.

At a sentencing hearing at Wood Green Crown Court on Friday (3 July) manager, Samir Wassef, of West Drayton, and leaseholder Sami Farag, of Royal Oak, were each handed custodial sentences of 24 weeks after pleading guilty to eight offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Our fire safety inspecting officers were alerted by Haringey Council that The Prince of Wales, at 1 Finsbury Road, was being used as an unlicensed House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) and that they had concerns about fire safety.

On 14 November 2011, a joint inspection was carried out by a Brigade fire safety inspector and the council.

Following the visit, our inspectors raised a number of fire safety concerns including:

  • Inadequate fire detection
  • Compromised escape routes
  • Defective fire doors
  • Inadequate fire separation between the staircase and kitchen
  • No staff training records
  • Disabled smoke alarms in the building's corridor, kitchen, and a number of bedrooms
  • A motorbike containing petrol in one of the bedrooms
  • No emergency fire plan in place
  • No fire risk assessment for the premises had been carried out

A prohibition notice was issued to Mr Farag, preventing the upper floors of the building being used for residential accommodation, until the Brigade's concerns had been addressed.

An enforcement notice was issued on 25 November 2011 requiring the work to be completed by 16 April 2012.

Further visits by our inspectors found, although some improvements had been made, people were still clearly using the upper floors as sleeping accommodation and the terms of the prohibition notice had not been fully met.

Fire doors remained hooked open, door closers remained unfitted and there was no fire door separating the kitchen and bar.

In addition, there was still no emergency plan or fire safety training for staff. A fire risk assessment was provided but this was found to be wholly inadequate.

For carrying out an inadequate fire risk assessment a third defendant, Dean Venkatasamy, received a 12-week prison sentence, suspended for one year, at Friday's hearing .

Speaking after the court case, the Brigade's Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Neil Orbell, said: "This premises was a potential death trap and the fact that the judge sentenced both Mr Farag and Mr Wassef to six months in prison should serve as a stark warning to other landlords who choose to ignore their fire safety responsibilities.

"The court's plainly take fire safety as seriously as we do and if we find landlords are putting their tenants lives at risk we won't hesitate to prosecute."

Guilty pleas

All three defendants entered guilty pleas at an earlier hearing at Wood Green Crown Court on 8 July 2015

Her Honour Judge Deans sentenced Mr Farag and Mr Wassef as under: