Store awaits sentence over fire safety

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A DIY store is awaiting punishment after it was found guilty of failing to observe fire safety laws at its Morley, Batley and Leeds branches.

Al Murads were originally fined £128,000 last month after admitting a total of 20 breaches of safety, However, it was later found that lay magistrates had acted beyond their jurisdiction in imposing individual fines in excess of £5,000.

Leeds Magistrates Court have now committed the sentence for Leeds Crown Court on February 5.

Inspections led by West Yorkshire Fire Service (WYFS) last year at the three sites uncovered a catalogue of shortcomings, including the blocking of fire exits with heavy machinery, failing to keep fire doors unlocked and faulty smoke alarms. In one case, a store’s fire alarm had been silenced.

At the company’s Morley store on Howley Park Road, an inspection led by Kenneth Parsons of WYFS found that staff had not been given a risk assessment and equipment such as extinguishers and alarms had “not been maintained.”

Sarah Dimmock from West Yorkshire Fire Service said that although the procedures were simple to apply, failure to do would have been “disastrous in the event of a fire.”

Company director Irfaan Patel was in court to hear the charges against Al Murads for a second time.

Counsel for the defence Imran Khan said: “Mr Patel takes these matters extremely seriously. Having been informed of the failures he took action almost immediately.

“The company have given an unreserved apology and wants to make sure it is fully up to date with current legislation.”

Lay Magistrate Mr S Rollinson said: “We have come to the view that the company did not have anything like a robust approach to the safety of members of the public or indeed the safety of its employees.

“Having been in business for 30 years, it certainly has the wherewithall and the assets to put in place appropriate safety measures as it has since demonstrated.

“We don’t feel that the fines that were levied were too great in the overall sense, but we believe that the powers of sentence are not sufficient and that is why we have submitted this case to the Crown Court.”

Al Murads has 40 branches and a further 30 franchises nationwide and recorded net profits in excess of £2m last year.