House fire A Cheshunt man has pleaded guilty to fire safety offences, following a successful prosecution by Hertfordshire County Council. 

Graeme Kerry, 55, of Wavell Close, Cheshunt was the tenant, employer and the responsible person for the Bell pub in Hoddesdon when there was a fire two years ago. 

Although there was limited fire damage and no injuries or fatalities, Hertfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service was concerned that a night-time fire could have led to loss of life for occupants living upstairs. 

Their investigation identified multiple, serious breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, leading to six charges against Kerry. He pleaded guilty to all charges at Stevenage Magistrates Court on 21 March. 

Kerry accepted that the main alarm was not fully operational as it did not have a battery back-up in case of mains failure. Fire staff also discovered clingfilm covering a smoke detector and defective fire doors and emergency lighting. When fire safety records were reviewed, it was apparent checks had stopped in February, a month before the fire. 

In mitigation, Kerry said he leased the pub and employed people to carry out the day-to-day running, which he said included fire safety. 

After hearing evidence and mitigation magistrates felt they did not have sufficient jurisdiction to deal with the case so referred sentencing to St Albans Crown Court. 

The maximum crown court penalty is an unlimited fine and/or up to two years’ imprisonment. Kerry was released on unconditional bail until the hearing, in May. 

Richard Thake, Cabinet Member for Community Safety, said: “I’d like to thank our firefighters who arrived on the scene incredibly quickly and ensured that damage to the property was limited and the public were not put at any further risk to their personal safety. 

“In cases where irresponsible proprietors are willing to take risks and cut corners with the safety of the public and their employees, putting their lives at risk, we will step in, investigate and consider prosecution.”