Prosecution of Building Owner

Published 18th Oct 2019

On the 16th July 2017, North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service attended a fire at Potters Lodge, Marton, Sinnington, York, YO62 6RD. The building where the fire occurred was a garage, stables and storeroom block with a self contained flat above the garage.

At the time of the fire, Mr Boguslaw Szylak was living in the flat above the garage. Unfortunately as a result of the fire Mr Szylak tragically lost his life.

Fire Safety Inspectors visited the building and commenced an investigation into the fatal fire. Fire Safety and Fire Investigation officers dedicated an unprecedented amount of resources to this case to establish the cause of the fire and investigate any fire safety breaches.

The investigation found the building was converted to provide sleeping accommodation without planning authority approval, it also had an Enforcement Notice in place which prohibited the building being used as sleeping accommodation.

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service were of the opinion that due to the loss of life, prosecution under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 was an appropriate course of action.  A prosecution was brought against Mr, David John Lumley, the building owner, who pleaded guilty to two offences under the fire safety legislation.

At York Crown Court on 17th October 2019, His Honour Judge Morris stated that it was right for the Fire Authority to bring the case and important that the Fire Authority recovered its cost allowing them to pursue similar cases when appropriate.

Judge Morris also stated that the building should have never been used for sleeping or living, and as a builder MR. Lumley should have known better.

In sentencing Mr Lumley was given 15 months custodial sentence reduced to 10 months for his early guilty plea, this was suspended for 12 months.

Mr Lumley was also fined a total of £40,000 and ordered to pay £40,000 costs a total of £80,000 awarded for the fire safety breaches on the night.

Commenting on the successful prosecution, Group Manager, David Winspear of North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said:

“We (North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service) will always investigate fatal fires and ensure legislation is being complied with, and where it isn’t seek to take appropriate action. In this case, due to the loss of life, prosecution was considered appropriate. The parties involved in this case were in a position of trust and responsibility. Considering the occupier and fire victim  Mr Boguslaw Szylak who was a vulnerable person, insofar as English was not his first language, that responsibility was so much greater.

“We would like to remind business owners and landlords that it is important that they are aware of the legislative requirements they need to comply with including having an up to date fire risk assessment.

“We would also advise the public that they can report concerns about poor fire safety standards to us and these concerns will be investigated by our business safety team.  Depending on what is found there are a number of steps we can take including giving advice to the business, taking informal action, taking enforcement action or, in the most serious cases, prosecution.

“We provide free fire safety advice to businesses and the public. We engage with various trade organisations and individual businesses to raise awareness of best practice around fire safety. I would welcome ideas from anyone and especially businesses as to how we can best reach out and deliver our important fire safety messages. Improving the standards of fire safety will reduce the risk of fire and help to keep individuals and businesses safer.”

For other fire safety information call the Fire Safety Advice Line (01609) 788545 or visit our website where links to business guidance documents can be found.