Judge says fine should act as ‘wake up call’
Housing manager Lewisham Homes has been handed a £40,000 fine and ordered to pay £23,407 in costs over breaching fire safety laws revealed following a fatal fire.
The housing association was prosecuted by London Fire Brigade after two women died in a fire which was deliberately started on the 16th floor of the tower block on February 4, 2011.
More than 100 firefighters were sent to the tower block after the fire broke out.
Sandra Clarke, a resident of the block, was convicted of two counts of manslaughter on June 1, 2012 after being found guilty of deliberately starting the fire.
An investigation after the blaze by fire safety officers revealed serious safety failings, mainly a failure to maintain fire doors, which directly contributed to the spread of the fire.
The flat in which the fire started was fitted with a metal security door, preventing the existing fire door behind it from being closed.
The severity of the fire and the lack of protection between the flat where the fire started and the building’s communal areas meant fire and smoke rapidly entered the lobby and also the adjacent flat in which the two women who died were trapped.
His Honour Judge Justice Christopher Hehir said the prosecution should act as a “wake up call”, and warned that were the company not a not-for-profit organisation, the fine would have been significantly more substantial.
Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety Neil Orbell said: “Living in a high rise building is not more dangerous than living in a house but this tragic incident is a stark reminder of the potentially lethal consequences of failing to maintain the vital safety features, such as fire doors, which are built into them to give you protection from fire.
“Sadly in the case of Marine Tower, this life saving engineering was not maintained, causing fire and smoke to spread rapidly into the lobby area and ultimately into a flat where two women, trapped by the fire, tragically died.
“I absolutely agree with the Judge. This prosecution should act as a ‘wake up call’ and send an urgent message to all housing providers to ensure the fire safety features in their buildings are properly maintained.”