Pleasley caravan site a 'time bomb', court hears

Hard-up tenants were exploited when living at a Pleasley caravan park which was riddled with dangers from its gas supply, a court heard.

Judge Timothy Spencer QC imposed an eight-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, on 57-year-old Felix Rooney, who admitted failing to ensure safety of people at the Blackbridge site on Common Lane. He must also pay costs of £22,235.

The case was heard at Nottingham Crown Court.

The case was heard at Nottingham Crown Court.

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Speaking at Nottingham Crown Court on Friday, the judge described the site as a 'time bomb'.

He was told that people could have been overcome by leaking gas which could also have ignited and caused an explosion.

The court also heard that housing benefit payments were made to cover tenants staying there. Over a six-year period, these amounted to £266,742.

Mr Spencer said: "It was exploitation in my view.

"The level of safety was lamentable in the extreme."

The court heard that the site was visited by the Health and Safety Executive on June 18, 2016.

Gas bottles were checked in four caravans and were found 'to carry immediate danger to life', said Ben Mills, prosecuting.

Seven more caravans were later found to pose risks to occupants.

The site had a total of 36 caravans with 24 occupied at the time.

Mr Mills said there were problems with 'leaky flues, cracks in hoses and inadequate ties'.

He added: "There were dangerous appliances and there was a pile of discarded gas cylinders which appear simply to have been thrown in a pile.

"These were dangerous, too."

Mr Mills said this was because the cylinders still contained gas.

They were only replaced when the supply was dropping and declining pressure meant it could not be extracted.

Mr Mills said: "Gas leaks could have carried the risk of a gas explosion.

"It was a highly dangerous situation.

"People in the caravans could suffer carbon monoxide poisoning.

"Appliances were tested and were leaking.

"There was a serious risk of harm over a prolonged period and cost-cutting at the expense of safety."

He said that Rooney initially denied responsibility but later accepted he partly managed the site for six months up to June 2017.

It had once been operated by his son, also named Felix.

Mr Mills added: "The son went into hiding because of threats and was in America at the time."

Adam Butler, mitigating, said that Rooney senior ordered immediate repairs and these were promptly carried out, getting a Gas Safety certificate.

Mr Butler said: "He was helping out the family when his son was out of the picture. The son is in the States.

"He accepted that he was responsible for the site but was not profiting from it."

Great-grandfather Rooney, of Brandon Lane, Coventry, now works as a labourer and will not be involved in running caravan sites again, added Mr Butler.

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