Holiday Park Owner Receives Suspended Sentence

The owner of Woolacombe Beach Holiday Park in North Devon has narrowly avoided jail after a near fatal blaze exposed a number of fire safety breaches. Mr Graham Toms, has received a six month prison sentence, suspended for two years. He has also been ordered to pay a fine of £40,000 and a further £15,000 in costs.

On the 3rd August 2015 a significant fire broke out. Two staff members suffered burns and a guest using the pool with his young son, had to break out of the building using his bare feet to break the glass of a locked fire exit with only minutes to spare.

The resulting investigations by the fire and rescue service revealed a number of failings including:

  • Locking fire exit doors leaving them useless in an emergency
  • Lack of emergency escape lighting
  • Failure to provide staff fire training
  • Lack of suitable emergency plan

The investigation also revealed that Mr Toms failed to act on the findings of a fire risk assessment carried out in 2009. Paul Bray of Devon Fire & Rescue team said: “Mr Toms, a Director responsible for fire safety at the premises, had been in the industry for many years and should have been well aware of what was expected and needed in respect of fire safety at the premises.

“He understood the need for a Fire Risk Assessment, yet failed to comply with the requirements of the Fire Safety Order by ignoring advice from those he had appointed to assist, putting lives at risk as evidenced by the actions and resulting injuries sustained by a guest and staff as a result of a fire on the premises.”

Mr Bray went on to say: “This was a reckless breach of the law in relation to fire safety standards. It was extremely fortunate that no one died or were more seriously injured at the premises.” The fire service added: “The severity of the fines imposed by the court shows that companies cannot ignore their responsibilities for ensuring the safety of both the public and staff who reside at their premises. The Service’s Business Safety Officers will always work with and support those businesses that take their fire safety responsibilities seriously but will not tolerate those that fail to carry out their duties.”

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