Hotelier's 'woeful' failure costs £200K

A Suffolk hotelier who put the lives of guests at risk by flouting fire safety regulations was last week ordered to pay fines and costs totalling more than £200,000.

A Suffolk hotelier who put the lives of guests at risk by flouting fire safety regulations was last week ordered to pay fines and costs totalling more than £200,000.

John Nevins, of the Brandon House Hotel, failed to meet fire safety rules over a two year period whilst he made changes to the High Street building in Brandon, Ipswich Crown Court heard.

The hotel owner, 59, of Hilborough Hall, Hilborough, admitted two offences of failing to notify the fire authority of structural alterations at the hotel and two offences of contravening the terms of a fire safety certificate. He asked for two offences to be considered.

Nevins, who the court heard has assets of £10m, was fined a total of £145,000 and ordered to pay £58,000 costs.

Hugh Rowland, prosecuting, said the defendant became the owner of the 22-bedroom Brandon House Hotel in early 2003 and failed to notify the fire authority of plans to convert a function room into bedrooms. During a fire inspection in January 2004 it was discovered that one of the new bedrooms had no fire escape and could only be reached by going through another room.

The court heard that Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service returned to the hotel in May 2006 to find that changes had been made to the second floor landing that put guests and staff at serious risk of death or injury in the event of a fire.

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Officers were so concerned that they served a prohibition notice banning the use of the whole of the second floor until changes had been made. There was no emergency lighting on the staircases, the door to one room was not a suitable fire door and that there was poor construction of the walls and limited fire detection, the court heard.

Michael Clare, in mitigation, said that his client had since signed a document agreeing to co-operate with future inspections and he intended to make sure everything was up to scratch for an inspection in July. He added that Nevins now employed a general manager with specific experience in health and safety and hygiene.

“My client came to the hotel trade late in life and got himself into difficulties but since 2006 he has done his best to put things right,” said Mr Clare.

Sentencing Nevins, Judge John Holt described his failure to meet fire safety regulations as “woeful”.

“The potential for risk of serious injury to guests while they slept in your hotel was considerable,” he said.

Commenting after the case Joanna Spicer, Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder for public protection, said: “This person showed a blatant disregard for the safety of the residents in the hotel and the safety of his own staff. Mr Nevins repeatedly ignored the visits, advice, guidance and warnings given by our officers.”

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