The letting agent responsible for a property in Huddersfield which caught fire and killed two young boys has been jailed for 12 months for failing to fit smoke alarms to the house.
On 20 February 2016, there was a fire at a house on Alder Street in Huddersfield where two boys, three-year-old Logan Taylor and his brother Jake Casey, aged two, tragically died.
Kamal Bains, 51, of Stableford Gardens, Birkby, pleaded guilty at Leeds Crown Court on 16 July for failing to install smoke alarms which resulted in the deaths of two young boys, under Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, of Exposing Public to Risk.
Bains was charged by West Yorkshire Police last year in relation with the fatal fire, arising from his failure to ensure that working smoke alarms were installed at the address where the family were living.
Bains was repeatedly asked by the tenants to carry out repairs to the address, including the installation of smoke alarms since they moved into the house in May 2015.
The fire was believed to have started as consequence of an electrical fault in equipment which was in the young boys’ bedroom. The two boys were asleep in their bedroom when devices including a television set alight and proved fatal for the two boys.
An extensive and complex investigation, which included a full reconstruction of the property and the fire incident, was conducted by West Yorkshire Police, which resulted in charges being brought against Bains.
It is thought to be the first prosecution of its kind in the UK since new legislation was introduced in October 2015. The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations 2015, which said that private sector landlords are required from 1 October 2015 to have at least one smoke alarm installed on every storey of their properties and carbon monoxide alarms in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance. The landlord must also make sure the alarms are in working order at the start of each new tenancy.
Senior Investigating Officer Detective Superintendent Steve Thomas, who led the investigation, said: “An extensive investigation has been conducted by West Yorkshire Police into this incident and we are pleased that today we have secured justice for the family.
“During an examination of the property after the incident, there were no signs of smoke alarms having being present prior to the fire. There was also no evidence to suggest a smoke alarm had ever been fixed to the upstairs ceiling and only a fixing bracket was present downstairs.
“A full reconstruction of the fire was carried out in January 2017 where we were able to establish that if smoke alarms had been present in the property; they would have been activated in adequate time to get the young boys to safety. Instead due to his failings, there have been catastrophic consequences for a young family and the devastating loss of two young boys.
“The investigation team conducted visits to other properties within the letting agent’s portfolio and found failings at numerous other family homes.
“We welcome the conviction today and we also hope that this case is a stark reminder to landlords and letting agents to treat their responsibilities seriously and they have an obligation to ensure that all properties are fully equipped with all adequate safety measures to ensure the safety of their tenants. Failing to adhere to the legislation is a criminal offence and one which can have tragic consequences.”
The boys’ parents, Emma Taylor and Jamie Casey, said: “We are pleased that the court proceedings have now come to a conclusion; this has been a long and painful process for our family since the loss of our two boys.
“We do hope that this case highlights this important issue and for people to know their responsibilities as landlords or letting agents and to take appropriate action to ensure that any property they are responsible for has working smoke alarms. Such a simple check could have saved the lives of our boys and we want to ensure that this does not happen to anyone else.”
Deputy Chief Fire Officer Dave Walton, at West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “This was a truly devastating fire in which two young boys tragically lost their lives.
“Had there been working smoke alarms in this property the outcome could have been very different and these brothers could have had a future to look forward to.
“As firefighters the importance of having working smoke alarms is a message that we try and get over to the public day in and day out.
“In 2015 the law on smoke alarms changed making it a legal requirement for landlords to have at least one smoke alarm installed on every storey of their properties and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance.
“This landmark case shows how vitally important it is that landlords and letting agents take their responsibilities seriously or the consequences do not bear thinking about.”
For further information on Government regulations:
The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015: Q&A booklet for the private rented sector – landlords and tenants