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TWO businessmen have paid the price for ignoring fire safety and allowing people to live in fire traps.
On Tuesday, June 9, Ceyam Rahman, aged 24, of Withington Road, Whalley Range, pleaded guilty to seven offences and was hit with fines and costs totalling £9,759 at Tameside Magistrates’ Court.
The prosecution followed a multi-agency swoop on Ray’s Off Licence on Denton Road in December 2013, which found that the building was a death trap.
Fire safety officers from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) visited the premises with officers from Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and Tameside Council as part of Operation Phoenix.
Three men, including Rahman, were arrested and later released. Officers found that there was a flat above the licence that was accessed from a rear store room that had no proper fire protection.
There were three bedrooms and a shared bathroom and kitchen with the only cooking facilities being a portable gas stove with the attached butane cylinder being stored upside down.
There was no fire alarm or fire doors in the building and the route out at the rear of the premises was made from plywood and obstructed with combustible items, including propane cylinders. Officers subsequently received information that at night Rahman secured the doors to the shop with roller shutters – potentially tapping people inside in the event of a fire.
Rahman was fined £6,000 in total and ordered to pay costs of £3,639 and a £120 victim surcharge.
A week earlier, on Tuesday, June 2, also at Tameside Magistrates’ Court, Dilal Miah, aged 41, of Riding Lane, Hyde, was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,070 after pleading guilty to five offences relating to flats he rented out on Clarendon Place in Hyde.
A fire crew called in specialist fire safety officers after carrying out Home Safety Checks and identifying concerns about the safety of the building.
An inspection carried out with Tameside Council’s housing team identified there were no fire doors on the flats – meaning a fire in either of the flats would have spread onto the escape route, which was obstructed with combustible items. There was no fire alarm or emergency lighting and an emergency exit on the first floor leading out to a flat roof was bolted and difficult to open.
Cassie Williams, prosecuting, told the court: “There were up to seven people living in the building and fire anywhere would have spread quickly through the building – going undetected, particularly at night-time, and putting the tenants at risk of death or serious injury.”
Peter Greenhalgh, defending, said that the work had now been carried out and Mr Miah accepted his duty to make sure people living in the building were safe and would not repeat his mistakes.
Area Manager Billy Myers, GMFRS’ Head of Protection, said “Sadly these businessmen are tarnished with a criminal record and must pay a fine because they failed to take basic steps to ensure people living in their premises were safe.
“The risks in both of these buildings were obvious and yet they failed to consider fire safety whilst collecting rent. We will continue to work with our partners to improve safety for the lives of residents and these cases show that by working together with other agencies we can make a real impact.”
Detective Sergeant Dan Appleby from GMP's Tameside Phoenix team added: “This is a great example of the joint approach currently used in Tameside between agencies including GMFRS, Police, Local Authority Licensing, Trading Standards and Immigration, reflecting the thorough and effective use of the wide range of legislation available.”