Surrey Gibson Court retirement home fined over fatal fire

image captionIrene Cockerton was overcome with smoke in the blaze on 30 September 2011

A retirement home operator has been fined £360,000 after an 87-year-old perished in a fire at a home in Surrey.

Irene Cockerton died of smoke inhalation and her body was found in a wardrobe following the blaze at Gibson Court in Hinchley Wood in 2011.

The fire started on 30 September when another resident's TV ignited but there was no clear evacuation procedure, Guildford Crown Court was told.

FirstPort Retirement Property Services had pleaded guilty to four charges.

They were failing to:

  • Make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment
  • Take general fire precautions
  • Ensure a suitable system of maintenance
  • Ensure that employees are provided with adequate safety training.

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service brought a health and safety case against the company citing a raft of failings.

image source, Spencer Jobling
image captionTwenty-two residents were evacuated from the home
image captionThe blaze started when one of the resident's TVs caught fire

These included the lack of a suitable risk assessment carried out by the company and "inadequate" fire dividing walls in the loft space.

Judge Stephen Climie said managers at the home had not been trained properly and there was no clear evacuation procedure.

He said these failings had been flagged up by previous safety inspections, but were ignored.

At the time of the fire, the management company was operating as Peverel Ltd, but re-branded at FirstPort Ltd two years ago.

The firm was ordered to pay £100,000 in court costs.

Chief executive Nigel Howell said: "We are a very different company today than the company six years ago.

"We have new owners, a completely new management team and - as the judge noted - a much improved safety environment."

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