Courtroom dock

Landlord Lewis Marshall has been convicted of multiple offences under the Fire Safety Order for conditions at two of his properties on Chepstow Road, Newport.

The offences included the failure to maintain working fire alarms and emergency lighting systems, failure to keep escape routes clear, and a lack of measures to stop fire and smoke from spreading.

The charges were brought against Mr Marshall following inspections by South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, who also discovered that there had not been a suitable fire risk assessment undertaken for the properties.

During the inspections, conditions in one of the properties were found to be so dangerous that a Prohibition Notice was served, making it a criminal offence to occupy certain flats until the safety breaches had been rectified. It was discovered in a follow-up inspection that tenants had continued to live there despite the Notice.

Following a week-long trial at Cardiff Crown Court, concluding on 10 June 2022, the presiding judge said Mr Marshall had “buried his head in the sand… [and] simply not addressed” crucial fire safety requirements despite the service’s formal and repeated notices explaining exactly what needed to be done.

This is not the first time that Mr Marshall has been charged with similar offences for these properties, as he was found guilty of seven breaches of the Fire Safety Order in absentia in a court case in 2016. He was fined over £13,000 as a result of that case.

Simon Roome, Group Manager and Head of Business Fire Safety Department for South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Our role is to work with businesses and landlords across South Wales to support them to protect their businesses from the risk of fire. Those responsible for flats and houses in multiple occupation (HMO) need to take note of this verdict and ensure that occupants of premises they look after are safe and that they are not in breach of Fire Safety Regulations.

“The fire safety legislation we enforce, known as the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, is designed to keep occupants safe.  Where we find breaches of this legislation it is our duty to take action to prevent death or serious injury.

“The decision to prosecute businesses is never taken lightly, however there was a serious risk to the residents, and this was attributed directly to the actions of the individual responsible.”

Mr Marshall is due to be sentenced next month.