A FORMER restaurant boss who put customers’ lives at risk has been spared jail, but ordered to pay costs totalling more than £5,000.
A judge said the fire safety breaches by Jahangir Quereshi at the Thai Manor, in Sunderland, put the lives of those using the building under peril and could have created a “disastrous ending”.
Newcastle Crown Court heard the four-storey building was registered as only a restaurant with kitchens.
However, when fire chiefs carried out a spot check they found the building was packed with staff and students, living in the potential death trap.
The unauthorised tenants included four staff members living in the basement, where the one smoke alarm that was installed had been taped up, and the one entrance was partially blocked. Six Thai students were found renting the bedrooms on the first and second floor, which were close to kitchens, and had no fire alarms at all.
At a previous hearing, prosecutor Michael Graham told the court there was a smoke alarm on the ground floor, which would not be heard by those renting the rooms upstairs.
He said: “There were no means of warning people on the upper floors, who would have been unaware of the situation and potentially asleep.”
Mr Graham said one fire exit at the building was secured with a cycle lock and another was double bolted, making them virtually useless in an emergency.
Exits from the building were partially blocked with possessions, such as clothing and stock.
Quereshi, 51, of Corporation Road, Hendon, Sunderland, pleaded guilty to eight fire safety breaches at magistrates court last month, and has now been handed a four-month prison sentence, suspended for 15 months, ordered to pay £5,000 in costs as well as an £80 victim surcharge.
Fire safety station manager Richard Rickaby said after the raid last October, that a blaze at the restaurant could have proved fatal, as the fire service had no record that anyone was living at Thai Manor.
He said: “In terms of fire safety, they were very serious offences, because it was across the whole plethora of fire safety, and it was not just one deficiency.
“It had the potential for the fire to go unnoticed and for the fire to spread. It did have the potential to have fatalities.”
Area manager for community safety, Kevin Gardner, said: “The breaches found at this premise were serious enough to put the lives of staff, students and customers at risk.
“It is always our preferred option to work closely with the business community to offer free fire safety advice and support; but in cases such as this one, we will not hesitate to exercise our legal powers to ensure the safety of the public and our firefighters.”