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'Ignorant' blaze landlord told to pay £35k over safety failures

The landlord of a house where two people had to be rescued from an early morning blaze has been given a suspended sentence and ordered to pay over £35,000 in fine and costs after breaking fire safety regulations.

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The aftermath of the fire at a flat in Messenger Road, Smethwick

Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus had to wake one man while another of the four tenants was snatched to safety from a window as a 'severe fire' swept the first floor of the address in Messenger Road, Smethwick at 3.40am, a judge heard.

Fortunately nobody was killed or seriously injured but a subsequent survey revealed woefully inadequate fire safety precautions at the property, Wolverhampton Crown Court was told.

Mr Mark Jackson, prosecuting on behalf of West Midland Fire Service, outlined a catalogue of failure that had put lives at risk.

He said fire doors were either missing or ineffective; there was no emergency lighting on the first floor and only two domestic smoke alarms which had not been maintained and were only tested once a year.

The fire happened in July 2015 but court proceedings weren't started until this year

There was neither fire resistant glazing nor signage detailing the escape route people should take in the event of fire.

Mr Jackson declared: "There was significant risk of death or serious injury as a result of these failures some of which were nothing more than common sense measures. These were not isolated breaches."

A prohibition order was slapped on the property banning its use by tenants until fire safety had been brought up to scratch.

Salwinder Sangha, the 77-year-owner of the property which was made up of living quarters over a shop, borrowed £20,000 and complied with all the fire service's demands while also employing a letting agent.

The prosecutor continued: "The work was done to a high standard and the prohibition ordered was removed after all the faults had been corrected satisfactorily. It appears he had been unaware of the fire regulations."

Mr Richard Atkins QC, defending, said: "I accept this is a serious matter, especially after the terrible events at Grenfell Tower but he co-operated and did not try to point the finger of blame at anybody else.

"He had neither ignored earlier warnings nor put profit before safety. He fell foul of the law through ignorance."

The former foundry worker purchased the shop in 1981, started living above it with his wife two years later and remained there until 2000. The shop has been leased to others since 1996.

The fire occurred on July 2 2015 but court proceedings were not started until almost two years later, it was said.

Sangha, now a widower living in Selwyn Road, Edgbaston, admitted six breaches of fire safety regulations and received a four-month jail sentence suspended for 18 months.

He was also ordered to pay a £25,000 fine with £10,130 costs inside a year or face a further 12 months imprisonment in default.

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