The Blackpool solicitor who prosecuted a hotel owner over a “callous disregard” for fire safety said his sentencing to 18 months in jail sent out a clear message to others.
Warren Spencer, of Blackhurst Budd Solicitors in Edward Street, handled the prosecution of Peter Metcalf, landlord of the Kimberley Hotel, South Beach, at Blackpool Magistrates’ Court.
Metcalf was sent to crown court for sentencing and on Tuesday, Judge Anthony Russell QC jailed him for 18 months for a catalogue of 15 breaches of fire regulations .
These included beds blocking fire escapes, fire escapes chained and nailed shut, a potentially explosive gas cylinder by the only exit, a lack of emergency lighting and no working fire alarm system.
Mr Spencer, an agent prosecutor for Lancashire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire Fire and Rescue Services said: “The sentence, the longest handed down for offences of this kind, shows how seriously the judge took these breaches of regulations.
“Anyone in breach who is caught faces not only the possibility of a jail sentence , but also a substantial fine.
“I have worked on more than 120 of these prosecutions and this was the most severe sentence handed down – an important case.
“The building was dangerous. If there had been a fire those people living there could have been killed.The fire authority had tried four times to make contact with the landlord. He did not co-operate and eventually the council had to act to get the people out.”
The judge described Metcalf’s attitude as “obstructive and threatening”.
He said: “You said [the tenants] were grown adults and if they didn’t like the situation that was their lookout. It shows to me a callous disregard for safety.”
Dave Russel, assistant chief fire officer for Lancashire Fire and Rescue, said after the sentencing: “This is an individual who showed blatant disregard where he had a moral and statutory duty.
“Officers said they had never seen a building providing accommodation in such a poor state.”
Warren Spencer said every landlord, had to take their responsibility to their tenants seriously.
“You have to take your fire safety duty seriously, even if your building is unoccupied.
“We have seen with the fire at the Palm Beach last Thursday that any building is vulnerable to arson,” he added.
“It is important to make sure your buildings are safe and secured. There may be people living next door who could be at risk from a fire in your building.
“It is particularly important at a multiple occupancy, where people live full-time and cook in their rooms.”