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St Marys Marina Prosecution - Fire

Fire incident that prompted the case
Date of incident 11/05/2013
Time of call 00:22:59
Address St Mary's Marina, Manor House Farm, Diamond Jubilee Road Rufford, Tarleton.

Six fire engines and crews (Ormskirk X 2; Tarleton, Blackburn, South Shore and Chorley) dealt with the incident.
Incident report following fire investigation:-

Barge being repaired in boathouse accidentally caught fire. The fire started in the battery compartment of the boat due to fault in electrics and then subsequently set fire to boathouse. Boat and boathouse extensively damaged. Man and woman living on the boat escaped the worst of the fire, suffering the effects of inhaling smoke, requiring a precautionary check by paramedics. Fire

The prosecution by Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service

Mr Fitzell, the owner of St Marys, Marina, Rufford pleaded guilty to three charges under the Regulatory Reform Order at Preston Magistrates Court. These were:-

Failed to take such general fire precautions necessary to ensure the safety of any of relevant persons pursuant to Article 8(1)(b) of The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which failure placed one or more relevant persons at risk of death or serious injury in case of fire contrary to Article 32(1)(a) of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Failed to make a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment pursuant to Article 9(1) of The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which failure placed one or more relevant persons at risk of death or serious injury in case of fire contrary to Article 32 (1) (a) of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Failed to ensure the safety of relevant persons by failing to properly maintain a suitable and sufficient fire evacuation procedure for the premises, as required under Article 15(1)(a) of The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which failure placed one or more relevant persons at risk of death or serious injury in case of fire contrary to Article 32(1)(a) of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Mr Fitzell pleaded guilty before a trial date was set and his guilty pleas were heard by a District Judge in the Magistrates Court. The Judge took into consideration Mr Fitzell's early plea, good character, his co-operative attitude and that his motive for allowing people to sleep on their boat in the workshop was not financially driven - a couple repairing the boat (that was also their home) in the workshop were allowed to sleep on it.

The Judge concluded that a correctly undertaken fire risk assessment would have identified the unsuitability of people sleeping in the workshop on their boat and would have established that there was a risk involved to people sleeping in the workshop, which in the Judge's opinion led to a significant failing by Mr Fitzell in not undertaking the correct course of action of stopping people sleeping on their boats within the workshop.

The district Judge therefore referred the sentencing of Mr Fitzell to Crown Court, sentence of £3k for count 2, and £2k for counts 1 and 3, with £5887 prosecution costs and £120 statutory surcharge, making a total of £13007.

Quotes following sentencing John Cairns, Fire Safety Manager for Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service Southern Area, said,
“We work closely with businesses to help them with their duty to comply with fire safety legislation; this ensures the safety of our community’s and makes Lancashire safer. All premises other than single private dwellings are under the jurisdiction of Fire Safety Law and a duty of care exists to ensure that anyone who occupies these buildings are protected by adequate measures that will ensure their safety in case of fire. Where these responsibilities are not taken seriously, the service will always consider prosecution.”

Help regarding Fire Safety in non-domestic premises is available from Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service Fire Safety Enforcement Department at: http://www.lancsfirerescue.org.uk/contact-your-local-fire-safety-enforcement-team/

Group Manager John Buck who attended the fire stated,
“This fire had the clear potential to result in loss of life or serious injury, both to the owners of the vessel and to the firefighters who took significant risks to ensure that everyone had escaped from the fire. All this could have been prevented had there been the correct procedures in place and the relevant fire safety legislation had been complied with – a view that has been clearly shared by the Court. No one wishes to face such an incident again and I would strongly encourage all those who have similar operations and businesses to contact their local fire service for advice on how best to ensure that they are complying with the law”. Fire