Owner of “death trap” Bethnal Green guest house fined £250k
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The owner of a “death trap” Bethnal Green guest house has been given a six month suspended prison sentence and fined £250,000 for fire safety offences.
Mehmood Butt, 55, of Clinton Road in Mile End, defied council orders and removed an internal staircase of his City View Guest House, in Cambridge Heath Road, to make way for a lift, leaving only one external fire exit.
He showed a “blatant disregard for fire safety,” according to a London Fire Brigade spokesman.
This raised serious safety concerns as in the event of a fire sealing off the outside staircase, those on the upper floors would have been trapped.
His initial planning application, which detailed the changes, was turned down due to fire safety concerns - but Mr Butt had the work done anyway.
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Fire officers visited in March 2014 and ordered Mr Butt to make amends, but by July this was not done.
“Not only does it show a blatant disregard for fire safety, it rendered the building a death trap and put the lives of anyone staying there at serious risk should a fire have broken out,” said deputy assistant commissioner for fire safety Lee Drawbridge.
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“The fact the guest house owner went ahead with the occupation of the building despite being refused permission by the council on safety grounds is shocking.
“The size of the fine handed down in this case should send a clear message that, while we will do everything we can to help building owners meet their fire safety responsibilities, if we find they are blatantly ignoring them we will not hesitate to prosecute. ”
The route from the foot of the single fire escape to a safe place away from the building was also blocked, the court heard.
There was evidence rooms on upper floors had been used by guests in spite of safety concerns.
Some fire doors and smoke detectors were also deemed to be inadequate, raising further safety concerns.
Additionally, the lift shaft had no fire protection, meaning flames could quickly spread between floors.
Mr Butt was sentenced on Friday at Southwark Crown Court after pleading guilty to four offences under the Regulatory Reform Order 2005. He was also ordered to pay £14,200 in prosecution costs and given a nightly curfew of 9pm to 6am.