Category Archives: In Court

Company prosecuted after Sidcup fire in which woman, 91, was taken to hospital

A fire in Sidcup sheltered accommodation block, which injured a 91-year-old woman, has led to one of the UK’s largest property service groups being prosecuted for breaking safety laws.

Four engines and over 20 firefighters were called to the blaze at Milton Lodge, part of the Countrywide Plc Group, which happened in April 2011.

On Monday (February 1) Countrywide Residential Lettings Ltd were given a £19,720 bill at Bexleyheath Magistrates Court.

They rescued the pensioner from her flat, where the fire started, and she was taken to hospital suffering from serious smoke inhalation as well as slight burns.

Two other elderly residents were also treated for smoke inhalation.

Once the flames were extinguished, safety officers from London Fire Brigade(LFB) carried out an inspection of the building – and raised a number of concerns.

These included failing to properly protect a staircase from fire, failing to maintain fire doors, fire doors being left wedged open, and failing to maintain smoke vents.

Countrywide were served with an enforcement notice in May, with a legal requirement to fix the breaches.

However, the company failed to address the issues – and LFB were left with no option but to prosecute.

The company was fined £5,600, and ordered to pay £14,000 prosecution costs to the Brigade and a £120 victim surcharge – a total bill of £19,720.

LFB’s assistant commissioner Neil Orbell said: “We are talking about very simple issues here that would have been very easy to resolve, but time and again Countrywide failed to comply with our legal Enforcement Notice.

“We were left with no option but to prosecute.

“This is a sheltered block for vulnerable older people so it beggar’s belief that anyone would not immediately address issues which could compromise their safety.

“I hope this successful prosecution serves as a reminder that fire safety can be a life or death issue and building owners, managers, leaseholders and landlords take it seriously at all times.

“If we find they are not we will not hesitate to prosecute them.

“The case also highlights the importance of carrying out a proper fire risk assessment and of employing someone who is qualified and competent to carry it out.”

Fine after dangerous work over West End street

It has been reported by shponline and elsewhere that a company which manufactures and installs windows has been fined £36,000 after carrying out unsafe work in the West End of London . A member of the public alerted the HSE after it became clear that there were no measures to prevent workers falling eight metres and after part of a window was dropped onto the public area below.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard Ideal Glazing (Euro) Ltd carried out window installation work at Aldford House, Park Street, London, between 19 and 20 January 2015 that put their workers and members of the public at risk of suffering serious injuries or a fatality.

It was heard in court how the company had:

  • failed to provide equipment such as scaffolding which would have prevented the workers and window falling;
  • not provided workers with any formal training and no one was appointed to supervise the work;
  • not sufficiently assessed the risks associated wth the work;
  • failed to invest in equipment for working at height; and
  • a health and management system which relied entirely on the company’s managing directorn Mr Rashinda Joshi, despite his lack of relevant training and experience.

The court heard the company had previously been given advice by HSE in connection with work at height and that an audit by Ideal Glazing’s bank had previously identified a range of relevant health and safety failings. The court heard that neither written warning was heeded by the firm.

HSE inspector Andrew Verrall-Withers is reported to have commented after the hearing: “Ideal Glazing (Euro) Ltd put the lives of workers and members of the public at risk. People should be able to walk down a pavement without being exposed to the risk of a heavy window falling eight-metres onto them.”

“The company’s standards were appalling, and this was particularly unacceptable as previous warnings had been blatantly disregarded.”

“This is a case where equipment such as scaffolding was not provided. It’s vital that law abiding companies have confidence they will not lose work to others who underquote them because they take shortcuts at the expense of safety”