Banbury restaurant owner narrowly avoids jail for fire safety breaches
Staff found sleeping above Jool restaurant with no suitable fire safety in place
A Banbury restaurant owner has been prosecuted for failing to provide suitable fire safety arrangements for members of the public. The case was brought to court by Oxfordshire County Council Fire and Rescue Service.
Jool Restaurant in Parsons Street, owned by Mohammed Khan, was visited by fire safety inspectors after a concern was raised by Cherwell District Council’s licensing team that staff were sleeping above the restaurant in dangerous conditions.
When inspectors arrived, they found sleeping accommodation being provided on both the first and second floors of the building. The fire alarm system was not working. This could have resulted in a night-time fire spreading through the building cutting off the means of escape without those inside realising the danger until too late.
At the time of inspection, a prohibition notice was served meaning that the building could not be used for sleeping until the fire alarm was repaired.
Khan pleaded guilty to a total of five charges at Oxford Magistrates Court at an earlier hearing including, failure to make a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment, failure to ensure that emergency routes and exits were kept clear at all times, failure to ensure that it was possible for persons to evacuate the premises as quickly and safely as possible and failure to ensure that the fire safety equipment was subject to a suitable system of maintenance.
Due to the severity of the breaches, the case was sent to the Crown Court for sentencing. The court found the offences serious enough to award a custodial sentence. After considering the mitigation for this case, the sentence was suspended for two years. Khan was also ordered to pay costs totalling £2,400.
Councillor Judith Heathcoat, Cabinet Member for Community Safety, said: “The vast majority of businesses in the county take fire safety seriously and Oxfordshire County Council Fire and Rescue Service will continue to support them to comply with legal requirements and to help keep owners and customers safe.
“However, it is 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.”
Tom Branden, Fire Protection and Business Safety Manager for Oxfordshire County Council Fire and Rescue Service, said: “This case highlights the benefits of joint working between the district council and county council to make sure that business owners are not putting their staff or the public at risk.
“When we find major breaches, they often relate to people sleeping in buildings that are not designed for it. If you operate a commercial building and you have staff sleeping within that building, you need to be certain that you are meeting the expectations of fire safety legislation.
“You will need the right type of fire alarm system. The separation of the sleeping area needs to protect it from a fire in the commercial parts of the building and people must have access to a safe route out of the building. There’s plenty of guidance available, however, if any business requires further advice, please don’t hesitate to contact Oxfordshire County Council Fire and Rescue Service. We’re always happy to support local companies with fire safety.”
Published: by Banbury FM Newsteam