Custodial sentence for directors who ignored residential block prohibition order

Two company directors have been sentenced in court over significant fire safety breaches at a four-storey residential block in West Bromwich, where residents' lives had been put at risk.

As reported by West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS), Carmen Lupu and Daniel Orasanu, directors at First Job Ltd, were found to have deliberately breached a prohibition notice served by fire safety inspecting officers (FSIOs) at a residential building in which 80 people were believed to be living.

Issues were first identified at the converted office block, known as Metro Court, in November 2016, when Sandwell Council referred WMFS officers to inspect the premises. During their safety checks, multiple breaches were found, including:

  • no power to the fire alarm system, which was also faulty
  • insufficient fire detection in the third-floor corridor
  • numerous fire doors wedged or propped open
  • combustible materials in the staircase, which also obstructed the means of escape
  • flat windows that were not fire-resistant and opening onto a staircase.

The severity of the issues led to the fire service issuing a prohibition notice to prevent the premises from being used for residential purposes. However, as WMFS reported, “revisits over the following months revealed that people were still living there”. A Closure Order was subsequently given, with the service, council, and police moving residents out to alternative accommodation in July 2017.

At the time, Gary Jones of the WMFS Fire Safety team told BBC News: "In spite of our prohibition notice and follow-up visits, the building stayed in residential use.

"We will pursue cases to court where necessary and this one will come before Wolverhampton Magistrates next month [August 2017]," he added.

Councillor Syeda Khatun, Deputy Leader for Sandwell Council added: "Our inspectors found a long list of problems in this building, including the fire alarm not working properly.

"If there had been a fire, the building would have been incredibly dangerous."

It is understood that both Lupu and Orasanu fled the country in June 2018 and a trial was held in their absence at Wolverhampton Crown Court. The jury found the pair guilty of almost 30 breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

At a court hearing on 8 February 2024, Orasanu was sentenced to 34 months of imprisonment and Lupu to 33 months of imprisonment. They were also ordered to pay full prosecution costs totalling £66,708.

WMFS’s Head of Protection, Area Manager Lee Brathwaite said after the court hearing: “This was a shocking case. Many lives were put at risk because fire safety requirements and our prohibition notice were repeatedly and deliberately ignored.

We would much rather support and work with people who are responsible for fire safety. However, when necessary, we will not hesitate to use our powers and work with our partners to protect lives.