A Sunderland convenience store owner has been fined £2,000 for breaching fire safety rules.
Usman Ali, who owns Ray’s Discount Store in Villette Road, Hendon, was ordered to pay £3,500 after being found guilty of failing to comply with the requirements of Article 27 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
He was fined £1,000 for each of two counts of failing to reply to Article 27 letters sent by Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service. He was also ordered to pay the full amount of legal costs totalling £1,380, plus a victim surcharge of £120.
Mr Ali did not appear in court and, after deciding to proceed in his absence, Sunderland magistrates found the case brought against him by Tyne and Wear Fire Authority proven.
The court heard an officer from Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service went to the store on August 23 to carry out a fire safety audit. However, as there was only one staff member present and Mr Ali was unavailable, it was not possible to conduct the audit at this time.
Article 27 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 gives fire officers the power to require the owner of a business to allow them full access to inspect the premises and provide information in relation to fire precautions.
Despite every effort by officers to contact the defendant by telephone and in writing, he failed repeatedly to co-operate by disregarding requests for appointments, including two Article 27 letters.
Service Area Manager Alan Robson said: "We only prosecute as a last resort and give business owners every opportunity to comply before enforcement action is taken.
"It is always our preferred option to work closely with the business community to provide fire safety education and information. But where necessary we will not hesitate to exercise our legal powers to ensure the safety of the public and our firefighters.
"We welcome the court’s decision in this case and hope that it serves as a reminder to other businesses that they must comply with the law when it comes to fire safety."
The Echo contacted the store but Mr Ali was not available to comment.