Halifax firm fined after fatal hotel blaze

A HALIFAX-based company has been fined £80,000 for health and safety failures at a hotel which was destroyed by fire, killing three people.

Truro Crown Court today heard O&C Holdsworth failed to ensure fire detectors and alarms were working at its Penhallow Hotel in Newquay, Cornwall, or make an adequate risk assessment before the fire in August 2007.

Monica Hughes, 86, her 43-year-old son Peter, and 80-year-old Joan Harper all died in the blaze, described by firefighters as the worst hotel fire in Britain for 40 years.

The court heard the company, which owned the hotel, had been warned about inadequate equipment more than a year before the fire.

But the firm placed the blame on the hotel manager and a health and safety specialist it said failed to pass the warning to directors.

Last month O&C Holdsworth, of Harrison Road, Halifax admitted failing to ensure fire detectors and alarms were working at the hotel or making an adequate risk assessment before the blaze.

Two directors of the company, Nicola Burfitt and John McMillan, both denied three charges relating to them personally, with the prosecution saying it was “not in the public interest” to pursue them.

Speaking after that hearing, John Hughes, Monica’s son and Peter’s brother, said he hoped lessons would be learnt by the tourism industry from the fire.

“I am pleased at least to have an admission of guilt from the owners of Penhallow. It has been hell for the last few years,” Mr Hughes, from Shrewsbury, said.

“To lose two members of your family is beyond most people’s imagination.

“The best thing that could come out of this is that the tourism agencies and hotels sit up and take note. There are still premises and hotels around the country that are not complying with fire regulations.”