Bosses of a Manchester shisha bar which posed such a risk to the public it had to be demolished have been sent down for their ‘blatant disregard for fire safety’.
In one of the ‘most complex fire safety prosecutions in the UK’, six defendants from The Oasis Lounge on Great Jackson Street in Hulme were yesterday sentenced at a hearing at Manchester Crown Court.
The building flouted fire safety regulations, including having diesel and combustible bin liners and boxes placed near the fire exit – which didn’t open properly – and the fire alarm not being switched on.
Ignoring a Prohibition Notice from the fire service ordering the business to be closed until the problems were resolved, the shisha lounge continued to trade for more than a month until the marquee was dismantled by the council.
Sentencing the six defendants, His Honour Judge Michael Leeming, said: “Those people who invested money in this enterprise put profit before the safety of the paying public.
“It was good fortune rather than good management that no fire took place. Had there been a fire the risk to life would have been catastrophic, with hundreds of panicking people heading to one or two exits in an unfamiliar building.”
Wali Qaqub, 35, of Mauldeth Road, Burnage – who previously tried to evade the jail time by sending the court a bogus letter claiming he had contracted Ebola – was sentenced to 19 months in prison.
His accomplice Tajamul Khan, 26, was handed down 14 months, with the pair now subject to proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
The remaining four defendants were sentenced in total to 380 hours of unpaid work, £5000 in prosecution costs, a 34-week prison sentence, a 12-month community order and a two month curfew.
Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service’s County Fire Officer, Peter O’Reilly said: “We are delighted that the sentences reflect the seriousness of this flagrant disregard for public safety.
“These sentences are the culmination of hundreds of hours of work by our officers, partners and legal team. This is one of the most complex fire safety prosecutions ever held in the UK.
“The defendants showed a blatant disregard for fire safety. They blocked fire exits with barrels of red diesel, tore down our notices warning the public how dangerous the building was and continued to trade for six weeks after we issued a prohibition notice.
“You only need to look at what happened in Brazil in January 2013 when 241 people died in a nightclub fire to understand how these people put their customers’ lives at risk.
“Prosecutions like this are a last resort – these criminals spurned our offers of help time and time again now they’ve paid the price for their actions.”
Image courtesy of Lars Plougmann, with thanks