Almost half a million pounds costs and fine for failings which resulted in death of elderly resident

Following our earlier post in relation to the court case brought by Surrey Fire and Rescue Service after the tragic death of Irene Cockerton, the operator of the sheltered housing scheme where she lived has been prosecuted and handed out fines and costs totally almost half a million pounds.

Among the failings found against Firstport were:

·         Omitting to carry out a suitable risk assessment which placed Mrs Cockerton and others in danger of death and serious injury from fire

·         Significant breaches in the integrity of roof space compartmentalisation which increased the spread of the flames

·         Greasy vapours and deposits from kitchens increased the danger of a blaze spreading

·         Failing to put in place a proper evacuation procedure in the event of a fire, particularly in view of the vulnerability of residents.

·         Omitting to act on warnings given earlier by people who had carried out past inspections and allowing the condition of the roof space fire curtains to fall into disrepair

·         Area and house managers not given satisfactory training – a failure which placed one or more persons at risk of death and injury in case of fire.

Sentencing yesterday Judge Stephen Climie slapped Firstport with a £600,000 fine, reduced to £400,000 on account of the company’s admissions and then £360,000 due to mitigating circumstances, including the company’s full co-operation with the investigation.

The Hampshire-based company was also ordered to pay an additional £100,000 court costs, bringing the total financial penalty to £460,000.

Judge Climie praised “the bravery” of Surrey Fire and Rescue Service, which brought the case against Firstport.

“The Surrey fire service are to be commended in terms of the way which they dealt with a very rapidly worsening situation,” he said.

Judge Climie also praised Mrs Cockerton’s family for their conduct during the case: “I note the extraordinary dignity with which her family have faced this case,” he said.


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