Labour Councillor Loses Appeal for Fire Convictions

The London Fire Brigade have reported how a restaurant owner has lost his appeal against a £10,800 fine for fire breaches.

The case was unusual, sadly not because he pleaded guilty to eight fire offences - multiple offences are unfortunately very common. It was out of the ordinary because the man who pleaded guilty to the offences was in a position of leadership as a Labour councillor, was on the London Borough of Hounslow’s Standards Committee, and was chief whip of the Labour group.

The original hearing was on July 1, 2013 at Feltham Magistrates Court. It concerned offences at the Karahi Palace restaurant and banqueting suite in Hounslow. It came as a result of an inspection of the 300-seat-capacity premises by the London Fire Brigade, in which it was found that:

There were apparently recurring breaches of the regulations identified by inspectors, who eventually lost patience with the owners and decided to prosecute.

Labour councillor Darshan Grewal was fined £10,800 and ordered to pay costs of £3,000. On losing his appeal he was ordered to pay an additional £1,020 of costs.

Mr Grewal’s business partner, Sirjit Dhaliwal, withdrew his appeal on the day of the appeal hearing. He had been fined £9,750 plus costs of £3,000, the total being slightly lower because he had paid for the deficiencies to be put right.

Guilty but not guilty

After the hearing in July, the pair told reporters that they had only pleaded guilty to all the charges because the judge had told them they had to accept liability as joint leaseholders.

Mr Grewal explained that he and his business partner had fallen out by the time of the inspection and that he was therefore involved in name only. He had kept his name on the lease because he was owed money.

Meanwhile Mr Dhaliwal reportedly claimed that it was the other way around and that Mr Grewal rather than he who had been running the restaurant at the time of the March 2010 inspection.

As the case shows, for fire safety to be properly managed, the effort needs someone to take charge. If not, then lives are put at risk. The authorities have never been keen on intervening in disputes between business partners. It’s much easier for them to take the broad view that the law has been broken and that X, Y, and Z are the responsible persons.

If your name is on the lease, at Companies House, on the deeds, etc., the chances are you’ll be held responsible if something goes wrong. Source: IFSEC

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