Fine for pub landlord over fire and safety breaches
THOMAS MELODY was ordered to pay £11,000 after a fire at his former pub endangered three people’s lives in March 2016.
Bishop’s Stortford Independent reported on the prosecution of Mr Melody over the March 2016 fire at the Boar’s Head, which he was the landlord of and which is now a Turkish restaurant. Mr Melody lit the fire downstairs in the pub before leaving the premises ‘while there were residents in the accommodation upstairs’, but the fire got out of control, with the residents managing to escape before Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service (HFRS) firefighters extinguished the flames.
The firefighters managed to prevent the fire from spreading upstairs, though chief fire officer Darryl Keen noted that the occupants were ‘extremely fortunate’ not to be injured or killed, and at his trial it emerged that he had been directed by HFRS fire safety officers ‘well over a year before’ the fire to install a fire alarm. However, on attending the fire, firefighters discovered the alarm ‘had been disabled and fire doors were not working properly’.
At Wood Green Crown Court, it was reported that he had appeared to treat HFRS fire safety officers with a ‘measure of disdain and possibly arrogance’ when he was advised to install a working fire alarm and doors during routine visits. The crews that attended the fire reported that no alarm was sounding when they arrived, and later on it was discovered that the fire alarm panel ‘had no power’, with its fuse having been removed.
His defence lawyer stated that Mr Melody was ‘highly ashamed’ of his actions and had apologised to the residents living at the pub at the time of the fire, though Judge John Dodd commented: ‘I have to deal with you for an offence that does not come often before this court. It seems... that you had warning shots fired across your bows in 2014-15 when fire officers visited.
‘It is unfortunate that you seem to have treated those public servants with a measure of disdain and possibly arrogance as they pointed out your duties. Fire officers found the fire alarm had been disabled and fire doors were not working properly. That is why you appear before the criminal courts to plead guilty to a criminal offence which mercifully had no impact on human life. The message must go out that the law is there to be observed for very good reason.’
Mr Melody pleaded guilty to contravening Article 8 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, as well as for failing to ‘take appropriate fire precautions’, and he was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £10,000 costs to HFRS. In addition, he was ordered to pay a £100 victim surcharge, and had incurred his own legal expenses, which the judge said were of ‘significant financial cost’.
Mr Keen, also HFRS’ community protection director, stated: ‘The occupants above the pub were extremely fortunate to escape injury or even death in the absence of automatic fire detection on the premises. It was only the prompt deployment and actions of the firefighting crews that prevented the fire from spreading upstairs. We hope this case will serve as a warning to other businesses to ensure they have full working fire protection measures in place to prevent lives being endangered.’