Blackpool Hotel Owner Handed Record Jail Sentence
The owner of a hotel in Blackpool has been handed the longest ever jail sentence for 15 breaches of the Fire Safety Order.
Blackpool Council leader Simon Blackburn branded the hotel a ‘death trap’.
The hotel had been shut down after the council took away the premises’ alcohol and entertainment licence for a series of serious food hygiene and fire safety concerns uncovered by Environmental Health Officers in 2010. The owner was taken to court on that occasion, and was given a 12-week suspended prison sentence.
However, Environmental Health Officers and officers from Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service investigated the property again in March 2013 following a tip-off from a water utility company that people were still living at the property.
The joint inspection revealed four tenants were staying at the hotel for £50 a week.
The inspection also revealed that all fire exits apart from the front door had been nailed or chained shut, or blocked by obstructions such as broken beds. Additionally, gas cylinders, combustible materials and faulty electrical wiring were found in close proximity to the front door to the building.
Investigators found no emergency lighting, disconnected fire alarms, and no working fire alarm system.
The court was also told that Peter Metcalf, the owner of the now-derelict New Kimberley Hotel, threatened the fire officers with legal action, delivering what looked like home-made writs.
Sentencing was carried out on 13 June at Preston Crown Court. Mr Metcalf had pleaded not guilty to 15 offences, but was found culpable. In addition to an 18 month jail term, he was ordered to pay £5,243 in costs.
During sentencing Judge Anthony Russell QC said: ‘Attempts to speak to you had been made but you had been obstructive and threatened legal action.
‘It appears your attitude was that people were living there for free and they were grown adults and if they did not know the situation that was their problem.’
Reacting to the sentence, Lancashire’s Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Dave Russel, said: “This is the longest custodial sentence handed out by a court since this offence was introduced seven years ago. There is no doubt that had there been a fire in the hotel, people would have been seriously injured or killed.”
The council’s housing enforcement manger, Alex Bracken, said at the time: ‘If a fire had broken out, which is highly likely given the conditions in the hotel, it would have actually put the fire team in jeopardy. The electricity was connected by illegal means.’
| ||Collated by Philip Turnbull |