Liverpool cafe owner with secret 'fire trap' living quarters jailed
A cafe owner in Liverpool who created a "potentially lethal fire trap" of secret rooms where his staff slept has been jailed for eight months.
Cafe Sekander-owner Jahed Ali, 39, of Wavertree, was found guilty of breaching ten fire safety regulations in his Allerton Road eatery.
Liverpool Crown Court heard the living quarters could only be accessed by crawling through a stair panel which was spotted during a fire inspection.
Ali pleaded guilty to all offences.
Judge Andrew Menary QC told Ali he had put his staff at "extraordinary risk" and had used "underhand methods to try and hide what you were doing".
The court heard fire officers first visited the restaurant in 2012 and found staff has been sleeping in rooms on the second floor.
The only escape route was down a narrow staircase and the fire risk was so great Ali was served with an immediate prohibition notice, the court heard.
He said he would block off access to the rooms.
On subsequent visits by fire officers he claimed the rooms were only used for prayers and resting, the court heard.
But on a visit to the restaurant in April of last year officers discovered a panel behind which was a space leading to the stairs and rooms Ali had been told to stop using.
Guy Keen from Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service said: "We were shocked. Clearly he's understood the prohibition notice. He's understood the seriousness of it.
"But he's decided to conceal it (the rooms) from us."
As he was sentenced Ali, of Bonchurch Drive, collapsed in the dock and had to be helped by court officials.