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Fire Safety Breaches land Hotel Owner Jail Sentence

The owner of a hotel in Paignton, Devon, received a jail sentence after committing seven breaches of fire safety rules.

David Schofield, owner of The Park Hotel on the main esplanade in Paignton, received a six month sentence, suspended for two years, at Essex Crown Court this week.

A false fire alert brought the property to the attention of inspectors, who subsequently uncovered the failings. Guests at the hotel noted that the fire alarms had not sounded during the alert.

When inspectors from Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service investigated, they immediately issued a prohibition notice shutting it down until required improvements had been made.

It was later found that several unsafe practices had occurred at the premises including;

  • Doors in the hotel were not fire resistant.
  • Electrics were dangerous.
  • Safety evacuation procedures were inadequate.
  • Emergency lights were not tested.
  • Alarms were faulty.
  • A fire door was blocked with a wooden plinth, whilst another was left open with a hook on the wall.
  • Fire doors were unable to open or close properly.
  • There was inadequate firefighting equipment.
  • Fuse boxes were exposed.

Judge Philip Wassell said: “A fire would have spread really quickly in the premises,” he said.

“This hotel was so dangerous that I don’t see myself with any other option than to impose a custodial punishment.”

He added: “I need to send a very serious message to hotel owners. The failures at this hotel were a potential tragedy in waiting. The number of defects was just hair-raising. To receive complaints from guests, some heard a fire alarm some did not, that 28 fire doors had failed to close properly, that 10 were not even fire doors. Furthermore, there were dangerous electrics, that there were elderly people staying at the hotel and exit doors were wedged shut. There were a catalogue of dangerous findings at the hotel and the fire service was quite right in closing it down. Anyone running a hotel in this dangerous condition needs to know the seriousness with which these matters are taken and with that only a custodial sentence will do. In terms of failings it is difficult to imagine one worse.”

Glen Wells, legal support officer and station manager for the fire service, said: “I’ve inspected hotels for 29 years but this one was one of the worst.”


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