Banbury firm fined for placing members of the public at risk of fire

A local firm and business director have been prosecuted for failing to provide suitable fire safety arrangements for members of the public at a public house in Banbury. The case was taken to court by Oxfordshire County Council on behalf of its Fire and Rescue Service.

Swan Pub Banbury Ltd and its director Mr Alan O’Donovan were together ordered to pay a total of £9,200 after they provided sleeping accommodation to members of the public, knowing the conditions were not acceptable and dangerous at The Swan Public House (3 South Bar Street Banbury OX16 9AA).

Fire safety inspectors from Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service issued a Prohibition Notice restricting use of the premises after an inspection found the dangerous practices and inadequate fire safety measures to ensure the safety of the public.

Mr O’Donovan, the company director and Swan Pub Banbury Ltd admitted three charges for three different offences at Oxford Magistrates Court on 1 November 2016. The charges included:

  • Failure to take general fire precautions as were reasonably required to ensure the first floor bedrooms were safe for public use
  • Failure to ensure it was possible for persons using these rooms to evacuate the premises as quickly and safely as possible
  • Failure to equip the premises with an appropriate fire alarm and detection system, all of which meant those sleeping on the first floor were placed at risk of death or serious injury if there were a fire.

The fines amounted to £6,000. They were also ordered to pay costs totalling almost £3,000 and a Court surcharge of £200.

Subsequent improvements carried out by Mr O’Donovan, which the Court acknowledged when imposing fines, have seen the risks reduced back to a tolerable level, thus allowing the Prohibition Notice to be withdrawn and public use resume.

Councillor Rodney Rose, the Deputy Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, who also has Cabinet responsibility for Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “The vast majority of businesses in the county take fire safety seriously and Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service will continue to support them to comply with legal requirements and to help keep business owners and customers safe. However, it is just not acceptable to put people’s lives at risk. Hopefully this prosecution will act as a deterrent to others who think they can ignore what are essential safety measures.”

Stuart Garner, Fire Protection and Business Safety Manager for Oxfordshire County Council Fire and Rescue Service, said: “The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which is enforced by the Fire Authority, places a requirement upon the responsible person, usually the building occupier, operator or owner, to firstly undertake a fire risk assessment and secondly, which in this particular case was most relevant, act upon the outcomes of their significant findings.

Creating a safer Oxfordshire

“To help us create a safer Oxfordshire, it is important that businesses not only understand why such an assessment must be initially undertaken, but also the importance of acting upon the findings as part of a constant review process and management of their premises.

“In this particular case, Mr O’Donovan was aware of the fire risk assessment findings, together with the recommendations, but as the Court agreed, he failed to act upon the outcomes in a timely manner, thus placing the public at unnecessary and unjustified risk of fire.

“By correctly managing their premises and not committing fire safety offences, business operators can avoid placing the public at risk of possible death or serious injury in the event of fire. Thus, when the Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service do undertake a routine fire safety audit of the premises, it is unlikely that such offences will be discovered and any need for legal proceedings being instigated against the responsible person is eliminated.”

“I would remind everyone that a suite of specific guidance documents to assist business operators are available free of charge via the Government’s GOV.UK website (Fire safety in the workplace - GOV.UK ) or via the Chief Fire Officers Association website at http://www.cfoa.org.uk/19512

“If any business requires any further advice, then please don’t hesitate to contact Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service who are always here to support all local businesses with fire safety guidance.”

For more information

Fire safety advice is part of Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service's 365alive campaign, an initiative designed to make the county a safer place through a range of educational and preventative community work. For further advice see www.365alive.co.uk .