Safety regulations breached by landlord
Regular readers may remember that in March I wrote about the notorious Norwich landlord Mike Billings, who had been successfully prosecuted after one of his tenants nearly died in a fire at her home. Billings has now been sentenced to 30 months imprisonment, in a decision which has been reported widely.
His tenant, poor Miss Skalli, 20, is lucky to be alive, although she is in constant pain after suffering 80pc burns to her body. Only pioneering skin grafting techniques saved her.
Billings admitted 14 serious breaches of fire, health and safety regulations, and charges against him included failing to maintain alarms and a lack of proper escape routes. Prosecutor Richard Matthews QC, told the court that these breaches had prevented Miss Skalli escaping before the blaze worsened. Health and Safety Executive inspector John Claxton described it as “the most horrific case I have dealt with in 31 years in this job”.
Sentence may be reduced if Billings pays compensation
The case also had the most extraordinary exchange between Judge and Counsel, described by the EDP as follows:
In an unusual exchange, Billings’s barrister, Simon Spence QC, said his client was willing to pay compensation as an expression of remorse but only “if he was in a position to do so”.
Mr Spence added that Billings may not “be physically able” to pay if he were jailed.
Judge Downes said he would review the sentence if and when such a payment was received. Mr Spence said: “Sorry to be so crass, but can I ask how much you would reduce the sentence by, as my client will need to know when making his decision?”
The important of compliance with safety regulations
When passing sentance, the Judge told Billings:
“You have been stupid and neglectful to the extreme. The effect on all of the victims must have been terrifying. What this case proves is that fire regulations and other regu-lations are of the greatest importance. The regulations are designed to avoid what happened in this case.”
Layla’s brother, Andrew Skalli, said:
“The actions of Michael Billings have ruined my sister’s life. We want to remind every landlord that they have a legal and moral obligation to the safety of their tenants, something Billings gave no thought to hence why he has been sentenced today.
“But no amount of time in prison could make up for the pain he has caused my sister and my family. Despite this we remain grateful to the people who made this prosecution possible and hope it helps save other lives.”
This case is an example of how very important it is that landlords comply, or if they do not comply voluntarily, are forced to comply, with the various regulations which exist to ensure the safety of tenants.
Local authorities should be more vigilant to carry out prosecutions against defaulting landlords, which may help prevent terrible cases such as this, occurring again.