Introduction to The Law
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 came into force on 1 October 2006. It replaces the previous legislation in this area.
The Order obliges the person responsible for the premises to provide and maintain sufficient fire precautions so that people can work in safety or escape safely if there is a fire.
The premises to which the order applies can be a building, workplace, vehicle, vessel aircraft, installation or tent.
The responsible person is, in relation to a workplace, the employer, if the workplace is to any extent under his/ her control.
In relation to premises that are not a workplace the person who has control of the premises (as occupier or otherwise) in connection with the carrying on by him of a trade, business or other undertaking (for profit or not); or
The owner where the person in control of the premises does not have control in connection with the carrying on by that person of a trade, business or other undertaking.
The responsible person must take general fire precautions that will ensure as far as is reasonably practicable, the safety of any of his employees and in relation to people who are not employees to take such precautions as may reasonably be required to ensure the premises are safe.
The order imposes a number of detailed obligations on the responsible person. One important obligation is that the responsible person must carry out a fire risk assessment which must focus on the safety in case of fire of all relevant persons (any person who may be lawfully on the premises or in the immediate vicinity).
It should pay particular attention to those at special risk, such as disabled people, those who may have special needs and young people. It must include consideration of any dangerous substance liable to be on the premises.
Failure to comply with the requirements of the Order, an enforcement, prohibition or alterations notice and obstructing an inspector are offences. It is a defence for a person to show that they had done all that could reasonably be expected of them to avoid the commission of any offences.
Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (link)
Explanatory Memorandum (link)
Sentencing in Fire Safety Cases
New Look Retailers Ltd v London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority  EWCA Crim 1268 www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Crim/2010/1268.html
The level of fine imposed for breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 was to reflect the magnitude of risk to public safety.
R. vESB Hotels Ltd  2 Cr.App.R.(S) 56 at 32www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/markup.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWCA/Crim/2005/132.html&query=ESB+and+HOTELS&method=boolean
3 upright beds placed in a corridor on the third floor of the defendant hotel had been set alight by an employee causing 2 fatalities. The beds had been placed there 12-15 hours before the fire. The fire certificate issued to the hotel required specified precautions and detailed the means for securing escape. They were required to keep the corridors free from combustibles and obstructions. Total fines of £400,000. Court should look at pre-tax profit rather than turnover when imposing a fine. Fine reduced to £250,000 total.
R v F Howe & Son (Engineers) Ltd  2 Cr App R(S) 37www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/markup.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWCA/Crim/1998/3531.html&query=F+and+Howe&method=boolean
The important thing is to assess the gravity of the breach and in that context it is helpful to look at how far short of the appropriate standard the defendant fell.
R v Francis Steven Boal (1992) 95 Cr. App. R. 272
Criminal liability rested on those who were in a position of real authority, the decision makers who had the power and responsibility to determine company policy.
Tesco Supermarkets Ltd. v. Nattrass  A.C. 153.
Store manager not the directing mind and will of the company.www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/markup.cgi?doc=/uk/cases/UKHL/1971/1.html&query=tesco+and+nattrass&method=boolean
R. v Draper (Joseph)  EWCA Crim 2786
Landlord pleaded guilty to breaches of the Order where fire extinguisher had not been maintained and there were no self closing devices on the front doors of flats. Total fines of £135,000 upheld
R. v Mirza (Zulfiqar Baig)  EWCA Crim 3074
Although a suspended custodial sentence imposed in respect of multiple breaches of the was not wrong in principle given the offender's history of failure to comply with previous assessments and enforcement notices, the unpaid work requirement of 200 hours was manifestly excessive given the offender's circumstances and was reduced to 100 hours.
R. v Adeyeme (Lookman)  EWCA Crim 1391
Landlord of multiple occupancy building failed to comply with fire safety requirements and a fire in the building had resulted in the death of two people. An immediate custodial sentence and costs order that would require a property sale were upheld.
R. v O
Defendant pleaded guilty to two offences of failing to make sufficient fire risk assessments for two hotels. Eight months imprisonment upheld.
R. v Ashley (Paul)  EWCA Crim 3057
Fines totalling £40,000 were appropriate in the case of a timber-yard owner who had pleaded guilty to eight offences relating to breaches of the Order.
Regina v Michael John Snow  EWCA Crim 3278
Defendant pleaded guilty to eight offences of failing to comply with the Order. Sentenced to six months' imprisonment suspended for two years with a 100 hour unpaid work requirement on each offence concurrently. Fined £3,000 on each offence, a total of £24,000, with 18 months' imprisonment in default, and ordered to pay £9,000 costs. In deciding to reduce the fine imposed, the court had regard to the fact that a suspended sentence of imprisonment was imposed, together with an unpaid work order. Fine on each offence halved, reducing them to £1,500, a total of £12,000. The costs order of £9,000 remained.
Regina v Masonvale Ltd  EWCA Crim 780
Court expressed reluctance to interfere with a judge's discretion on a costs matter. Appeal dismissed.
R. v Nevins  2 Cr.App.R.(S.) 112
Defendant pleaded guilty to four counts of failing to comply with the requirements of the Fire Precautions Act 1971. Converted function room into bedrooms without notifying fire authority, no fire detectors in bedrooms, bedroom doors not fire resistant, no means of escape from some bedrooms. Fine of £145,000 and costs £49,988. Defendant was multi-millionaire. Fines upheld..