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Big fine for restaurant that housed workers in unsafe conditions

Released: Friday, 28 February 2020

A restaurant business that housed their employees in conditions that risked their lives has been fined over £44,000 after action by Worthing Borough Council.

China Place on Chapel Road in the town was found to have created 12 small rooms in premises above the restaurant that breached fire safety regulations.

Following information received from the police, officers from Worthing Borough Council's Private Sector Housing team inspected the upper floor on 24th July 2019 finding that the area had been adapted so that at least twelve units of accommodation were available for sleeping or resting, but that the fire separation measures was inadequate and the fire detection and emergency lighting systems were not being tested or serviced.

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Services (WSFRS) attended at the request of Worthing Borough Council and confirmed that fire doors to the escape routes were being propped open and were in poor condition, equipment was being stored in fire escape routes and firefighting equipment had not been maintained.

A Prohibition Order was subsequently served, although suspended while an appeal was made, but a further inspection by WSFRS in December 2019 found that no substantive improvements to the fire safety in the premises had been made. Worthing Borough Council's legal team therefore prepared the case for prosecution.

Last month China Palace Worthing Limited pleaded guilty to four offences under the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006. The magistrates at Worthing fined the company £11,100 for each of the three of the offences related to fire and £7,950 for an offence in respect of facilities. The company was also ordered to pay the Council's costs of £2795.86 and a victim surcharge of £181 for a total of £44,226.86.

In sentencing, the magistrates noted that this was a large fine, but that the company had exposed people living at the property to a serious risk of loss of life for more than 6 months with very little activity in relation to repairs.

A spokesman for Worthing Borough Council said the substantial fine and showed that the courts had recognised the seriousness of the offences. The Private Sector Housing team and the West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service continue to work together to ensure that living accommodation in the borough, including that provided as part of employment, is suitable and safe.

Worthing Borough Council's Executive Member for Customer Services, Cllr Dr Heather Mercer, said:

“I want to congratulate the members of our Private Sector Housing Team for their diligence and dedication to see this through to a successful conclusion.”

“We take very seriously the right of everyone in this borough to live in safe accommodation. Let this be a warning to anyone else who would house people in such conditions that we will not hesitate to prosecute you.”

Photos: Views inside the China Place

PR20-017 - Views inside the China Place (door and storage)

PR20-017 - Views inside the China Place (lockers)

PR20-017 - Views inside the China Place (bathroom)

(PR20-017)

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