Cardiff care home fined nearly half a million pounds

Cardiff care home fined nearly half a million pounds for serious fire safety failings, putting lives at risk.

Care home directors have pleaded guilty to significant breaches of life-saving fire safety regulations at a residential care home in South Wales, which could have potentially led to a “large scale tragedy”.

Farrington Care Homes Limited who run multiple facilities across the UK including Hillcroft Residential Care Home in Cardiff was sentenced on 10 September 2020 at Cardiff Magistrates’ Court.

Following multiple inspections dating back to 2011 by South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, Hillcroft Resident Care Home which houses 25 bedrooms was found to be in breach of a number of fire safety regulations within the Fire Safety Order, which is in place to reduce the risk of death or serious injury in the event of a fire.  Over a number of years extensions were granted for the company to rectify the failings but the requirements to comply with the Fire Safety Order were not met, which then resulted in prosecution.

In summing up, District Judge Shomon Khan said “This is firmly in the category of high culpability…these are the most vulnerable members of our society…each of them was put at risk…there was a risk of a large scale tragedy. These are very serious offences…it’s very difficult to imagine a more vulnerable class of individual…(two of the) offences were committed whilst the company was being investigated.”

Judge Khan ordered that the company to pay the total sum of £432,944.64 within 12 months, the figure includes surcharge and prosecution costs.

The offences related to fire safety arrangements including building structure fire protection to prevent the spread of fire and smoke, inadequate fire risk assessment, insufficient smoke alarms, inaccessible blocked fire escape routes, deficient emergency lighting, failure to conduct appropriate evacuation drills, lack of maintenance on critical escape routes and substandard fire safety management.

Despite multiple enforcement notices issued by South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, the company failed to undertake appropriate measures to comply with the notices. An enforcement notice is only served when the most severe fire safety failings are identified, the notice must be complied with and failure to do so can result in prosecution.

Head of Business Fire Safety at South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, Group Manager Owen Jayne said, “Our role is to work with businesses across South Wales to support them to protect businesses and occupants from the risk of fire.  The fire safety legislation we enforce, known as the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, is designed to keep occupants safe.  Where we find breaches of this legislation it is our duty to take action to prevent death or serious injury.

“The decision to prosecute businesses is never taken lightly, however in this case there was a serious risk to vulnerable residents and this was attributed directly to the repeated failures to comply to enforcement notices.

“We are pleased that the judge recognised the risks and the severity of the sentence reflects the seriousness with which the court views breaches of the fire safety regulations. I’d also like to extend my thanks to Mr Justin Davies of Hugh James Solicitors who represented the Service throughout the prosecution.”

If you have concerns about fire safety or would like more information about the Fire Safety Order you can visit: www.southwales-fire.gov.uk