Fine for company director and employee who prevented fire safety check

Ipswich Magistrates Court on Elm Street

Jerry Torty and Johnathan Ball were fined by magistrates - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

A Suffolk company director and employee have been handed a bill of more than £1,500 in total after preventing a fire inspector from carrying out a safety check. 

The inspector from Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service visited Eastern Counties Refrigeration Ltd on Minton Enterprise Park in Newmarket on August 24 last year to check compliance with fire regulations.

The visit was made with other agencies, following a referral alleging that the upstairs area of the commercial unit was being used for sleeping accommodation, Suffolk Magistrates' Court heard. 

Employee Jerry Torty, 36, of Stanley Road, Newmarket, pleaded guilty to obstruction of a fire safety inspector who was attempting to undertake his duties. 

He was fined £202 and ordered to pay £500 in costs and a £34 victim surcharge at a hearing on May 12. 

Company director Johnathan Ball, 65, of Eastern Way, Bury St Edmunds, had previously pleaded guilty to the corporate charge of obstruction.

He was fined £400 and ordered to pay a further £400 in costs at a hearing before magistrates on March 17. 

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Witnesses from other authorities, who were accompanying the visit, explained to the court how Torty obstructed the fire officer by pushing and grabbing him, and attempting to forcibly eject him from the premises.

Dan Fearn, temporary chief fire officer, said: “The safety and wellbeing of my team is paramount and I will not allow staff to be treated in such a way, which is why the service felt it important to prosecute these individuals.

“Officers are legally permitted to enter a premises at any reasonable time in such cases, when it is believed an inspection is necessary.

"My colleagues should not have to fear verbal or physical abuse whilst carrying out their job. They are working to ensure the safety of the public from the risk of fire.

“Fortunately, incidents such as this are rare. We regularly carry out such checks and in nearly every case, our officers are given the courtesy to do their work.”

Matthew Hicks, leader of Suffolk County Council, said: “I was upset to hear that one of our officers was treated in such a way, when they are simply doing their job.

"Their interests are solely to protect the public from the dangers of fire, protecting people’s lives and livelihoods.

“I fully support the fire service for pursuing this prosecution. Such behaviour is rare, but it will not be tolerated.”

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