A barber shop owner told a court he was “really sorry” for failing to stop workers sleeping in a basement with no fire safety provision, as a Cumbria court fined him more than £10,000.

Mehmet Oncu, 36, leaseholder of Oh My Cut, in Main Road, Windermere, appeared at Furness Magistrates’ Court on September 17 where he initially denied nine men had been living in the basement of his business, as concerns were raised over the safety of the building. The Defendant pleaded guilty to nine counts of failing to comply with the requirement of a prohibition notice and where failure risks serious injury or death in case of fire – charges which date back to May 5, 2017.

Warren Spencer, prosecuting for Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service told the court that fire officers had become concerned about the premises after receiving complaints about noise coming from the premises during the night. when fire officers attended they found bed and bed linen in the basement, and issued a prohibition notice to prevent workers form sleeping and resting in the basement area. but when the returned in May 2016 they found further evidence that workers were still sleeping in the basement.

Oncu admitted he failed to install fire extinguishers, alarms, detectors, and lighting which would protect his staff in the event of a fire.

The defendant played down claims made by inspectors from Cumbria County Council and the fire service, who believed a group of men had been living in the basement, despite the lack of basic safety equipment and inadequate lighting.

 Oncu, who was not legally represented in court said: “The reason I’m here is because I’m the lease holder, I’m not a barber myself.

“I don’t work there, but these guys have caused me trouble.

“I told them not to use the basement, but I didn’t know.

“I said to them, don’t put me in trouble, but I am really sorry, I am sorry they put me in this position.”

Speaking to the defendant, District Judge Gerald Chalk said: “You were aware that these people were sleeping in the premises and you failed to take action. You allowed the risk to remain.

“This is a shocking abandonment of your duty, you have a responsibility.

“You’ve not taken any action.”

Oncu was fined £500 for each offence, totalling £4,500 and ordered to pay £3,000 in legal costs incurred by Cumbria County Council and the cost of the three visits made by the fire service at a cost of £2,831.

He must also pay a victim surcharge of £170 making a total of £10,501.