Author: fire-admin

Fire Service Enforcement Now Judged by Police Standards

  15 fire services have now been inspected by her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), with widely variable results. My interest in these inspections is limited to the findings in relation to enforcement. But even in that area the Inspectorate has already found inconsistent approaches to enforcement across the country and whether or not a person responsible for premises is prosecuted for fire safety breaches is effectively a postcode lottery. The majority of inspections that have taken place paint the fire and rescue services in a positive light. Given the budget cuts of almost one third over of the last 6 years, one could argue that criticising a fire service for lack of enforcement is a bit like turning off the water supply and then complaining about how long it took to put out the fire. Especially when fire protection departments have also had the task of inspecting high-rise buildings since June 2017 to ensure the safety of residents rather than carrying out audits. Nearly all of the fire and rescue services audited thus far are shown to have solid enforcement models which are followed and used appropriately. The main variations appear when it comes to prosecutions under the Fire Safety Order. It is still the case that some FRSs take the view that working with businesses and forming relationships with responsible persons is...

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Is it Time to Review and Amend The Fire Safety Order?

Review of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 I have defended or prosecuted over 190 cases under the Fire Safety Order since October 2006. I am a higher courts advocate, so I deal with cases before both the Magistrates Court and the Crown Court. For various reasons, (most defendants plead guilty to fire safety charges-so nobody appeals to the Court of Appeal) there is no case law in relation to the interpretation of the Order. That does not mean that the Order does not require clarification or amendment. Over the last 12 years opposing advocates magistrates court clerks, district judges and Crown court judges have on numerous occasions expressed concerns regarding the drafting of the Order. Here is a summary of the points/concerns which have been raised with me over the years. Article 2 – Definitions The definition of “domestic premises” and what constitutes a “private dwelling” would benefit from reform. The current definition suggests that the Order cannot apply to private living accommodation or to those responsible for such premises, when clearly the Order can apply. If a tenant living in private accommodation has any control over the safety of his premises, which may affect the safety of other parts of premises (for example, a fire door leading on to the communal areas), then the Order may apply to a limited degree. On the basis that the...

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New 2019 Seminar “Protecting the protectors: Fire proofing your contracts”

Protecting the protectors: Fire proofing your contracts The seminar will cover: Case studies where fire safety suppliers have been investigated or prosecuted under the Fire Safety Order A brief overview of the law relating to culpability under the Fire Safety Order A prosecutor’s view from the ‘other side’ How you can protect your business through correctly drafted contracts, terms and conditions The impact on commercial lease agreements and management agreements The power of a correctly worded disclaimer Who should attend?: Suppliers in the fire safety industry e.g. fire alarm suppliers, firefighting equipment maintenance services Managing agents Commercial property landlords and estate agents Fire risk assessors Any fire safety service provider 24th September High Wycombe 25th September Bristol 2nd October Wigan 15th October Wetherby Time: 9:30 – 12:30 Cost: £99+VAT Speaker: Warren Spencer is one of the country’s leading fire safety lawyers. He has now prosecuted and defended fire safety cases for over 12 years and has also conducted numerous Enforcement and Prohibition Notice Appeals brought under the Fire Safety Order. He is able to offer impartial professional expert legal advice in all aspects of fire safety enforcement. Warren is a Higher Courts Advocate which enables him to work as an advocate in the Crown Court. Warren has conducted prosecutions for 8 Fire & Rescue Services, as well as advising businesses and professionals on various aspects of Fire Safety Law...

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10 Things Employers Might Not Know About Fire Safety Regulations

Over 600 prosecutions have taken place since the Regulatory (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (The FSO) came into force in 2006. The Order dictates that where premises exist as a workplace, the Employer is usually the person, or organization with responsibilities for fire safety. Every employer should be mindful of their fire risk management responsibilities, but here are 10 situations which employers may not be aware of: Employers can still be liable in law for any wrongful acts of their employees under the fire safety order. An employer may believe that the very best fire safety policies and procedures are in place. Staff may have been well trained and provided with all the necessary information as to what to do in the event of a fire. But if a staff member puts the lives of others at risk, even if he has not done what he was told or trained to do, the employer can still be liable. Article 32 (11) states “nothing in this order operates so as to afford an employer a defence in any criminal proceedings for a contravention of those provisions (contained in the Fire Safety Order) by reason of any act or default of-an employee of his;” hence, an employer is ultimately responsible for the actions of his staff, if they do not follow the appropriate procedures. There is no due diligence defence available to...

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Due Diligence and the Fire Safety Order

There are a number of potential offences contained within the Fire Safety Order (FSO), but there is only one prescribed defence available, and that is the defence of due diligence contained within article 33. The due diligence defence is common throughout regulatory law, such as health and safety and food safety, but the relevant legislation does not usually detail what precautions, procedures and safety measures will be required to satisfy the defence. In the area of health and safety there is a raft of case law, which can guide defendants as to the way in which the courts have approached due diligence in past cases, but I am not aware of any helpful case law in relation to due diligence in fire safety cases. Article 33 states: “… It is a defence for the person charged to prove that he took all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence to avoid the commission of such an offence.” (ie under the FSO) Significantly, article 33 does not provide a defence of due diligence to employers in relation to the failure to take general fire precautions to ensure the safety of employees (article 8 (1) (a)), due to the strict liability nature of that article; or in relation to the elimination or reduction of risks from dangerous substances (article 12). In all of the cases I have conducted under the FSO,...

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Warren Spencer

Warren Spencer

Warren Spencer is one of the country’s leading fire safety lawyers. He has now prosecuted and defended fire safety cases for over 12 years and has also conducted numerous Enforcement and Prohibition Notice Appeals brought under the Fire Safety Order. He is able to offer impartial professional expert legal advice in all aspects of fire safety enforcement.

Warren is a Higher Courts Advocate, an accreditation which enables him to work as an advocate in the Crown Court. Warren has conducted prosecutions for Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Humberside, Cumbria, Cheshire, Merseyside, Hereford & Worcester, Shropshire and Wrekin Fire & Rescue Services, as well as advising businesses and professionals on various aspects of Fire Safety Law including its effect upon PFI contracts.

Warren is a part-time Tribunal Judge and in 2015 he was appointed as a 'Legally Qualified Chair' for Police Disciplinary proceedings in the North West. He is also a former Assistant Deputy Coroner for Blackpool and Fylde.

Tel: 01253 629300

Email: info@firesafetylaw.co.uk

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