Jailed pair put profit before fire safety at two Mansfield hotels

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A PUBLICAN and a fire risk assessor have been jailed for putting lives in danger at two hotels in Mansfield after a landmark prosecution.

David Liu (58), the owner of The Dial Hotel and Market Inn, on Mansfield Market Place, and John O’Rourke (43), who carried out fire risk reports at both venues, were each locked up for eight months on Friday.

Judge Andrew Hamilton told Nottingham Crown Court that an example had to be set to those who were prepared to put profit before fire safety.

It was the first time in the country that an independent fire risk assessor had been convicted, and the judge branded O’Rourke an ‘absolute disgrace’ after hearing he had no qualifications for the role.

The court was told Liu paid O’Rourke, who drank in his pub, £150 for a fire risk assessment which he needed by law.

O’Rourke, of Booth Crescent, traded as Mansfield Fire Protection Services, which mainly sold fire extinguishers.

But the reports he completed for the Dial Hotel and Market Inn, which had 11 bedrooms between them, were described as ‘wholly inadequate’.

When asked about the 147-page Government guide to fire risk, O’Rourke had said: “I’ve read a bit but obviously it’s a big, thick book. I’m not fully clued up on it, I must admit.”

Inspections last July by Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service revealed inadequate fire doors, exit doors blocked or locked, no alarms or self-closing fire doors in bedrooms and no alternative escape routes.

Fire extinguishers at the hotels had not been tested for three years.

The court was told there had been a serious fire at the Market Inn in January 2006 when a 13-year-old girl was rescued from an upper floor by ladder.

And other guests and staff at the venues had been put at risk of death or serious injury because of the lack of fire precautions.

Outside the court, Ian Taylor, fire protection group manager at Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service, reminded occupiers of buildings of their legal responsibility to protect customers and staff against the risk of fire.

“It is a legal requirement for places of work to have a fire risk assessment,” he said.

“Guidance on fire risk assessment and fire safety measures appropriate for different types of premises are available on the Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service website.”

Liu, who lives at the Dial Hotel, is licensee of both pubs, which have a combined turnover of more than £400,000.

He admitted 15 fire safety offences and was jailed for eight months and ordered to pay £15,000 court costs.

In mitigation, his barrister Errol Ballentyne said rooms were no longer being let out and Liu did not accept he knew the risk assessment was inadequate.

O’Rourke, who admitted two breaches of fire safety requirements, was also jailed for eight months and ordered to pay £5,862 in costs.

James Beck, for O’Rourke, said since the prosecution his client had made sure other fire risk assessments were carried out by people who were competent.

Help regarding fire safety in non-domestic premises is available from Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service’s advice line on 0115 957 5231 or email fireprotection@notts-fire.gov.uk.