A Yorkshire-based landlord has faced charges of unlawfully killing two children, after a fire swept through their Huddersfield home.
Three-year-old Logan Taylor, and two-year-old Jake Casey died after being overcome by smoke in their bedroom, after the fire started at the rented property they shared with their parents, Emma Taylor and Jamie Casey, in February 2016.
The landlord of the property, Kamal Bains, has stood trial this week at Leeds Crown Court, facing two manslaughter charges. He pleaded not guilty to the initial charges of manslaughter, but guilty to an alternative charge of failing to discharge the employer’s general duty owed under Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
Evidence provided at the case suggested that there was no working smoke alarm present within the property, nor had there been for a year, and there was no effective system for monitoring the presence or absence of smoke alarms.
The judge, Mr Justice Males, noted that he did not believe that this was an ‘intentional breach or a flagrant disregard of the law’, concluding that Mr Bains’ responsibility fell somewhere between high and medium culpability.
The court witnessed harrowing reconstruction videos highlighting the timeframe in which the fire took hold, and were alerted as to when, had a smoke alarm have been present, potential rescues could have been attempted. A statement was made to the court by prosecutor Allan Compton that the absence of smoke alarms effectively ‘sealed the fate of those children’ and denied their mother the chance to rescue them.
Mr Compton went on to note how Mr Bains had admitted to police six times during questioning that it was his company’s responsibility to fit alarms and check that they were in full working order. He claimed that he carried out the relevant checks every three to six months. However, Ms Casey maintains that the household had been without an alarm from April 2015 to February 2016.
In his conclusion, Mr Justice Males noted that ‘there would have been at least a few minutes after the time when the alarm would have sounded if it had been there, during which a rescue would have been possible. It is therefore proved to the criminal standard in my judgement that your failure to fit smoke alarm was a significant cause of the children’s death. Thus the actual harm caused by your failure could not have been more serious.’
He went on to conclude:
‘The consequences of your offence, the death of two young children whose parents will never see them grow up, are just too serious.’
‘I want to conclude by making it absolutely clear that, whatever some people may think, the sentence which I am passing today is not in any way a reflection of the value of the lives which have been lost. The lives of Logan and Jake were of infinite value and nobody must be under any misapprehension about that.’
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.Emma Taylor and Jamie Casey, parents of Logan Taylor and Jake Casey
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.Dave Walton, deputy chief fire officer for West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service
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