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London church pleads guilty to fire safety breaches

A church organisation must pay £30,000 in fines and costs after a successful prosecution brought by the London Fire Brigade for fire safety breaches
A church organisation has been prosecuted for fire safety breaches
Organisation admitted guilt on three contraventions of fire safey requirements

A church organisation have been ordered to pay £30,000 in fines and costs after pleading guilty to serious breaches of fire safety legislation following a prosecution brought by the London Fire Brigade.

Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries International admitted guilt on three contraventions of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Sentencing occurred on Friday 24 July 2009 at the Woolwich Crown Court.

The Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries International held their services at Crabtree Manorway South in Erith. On 11 June 2007, a prohibition notice was issued against the church which restricted the number of people on the ground floor of the premises to 600 at any time.

On 5 January 2008, the premises were inspected by the Brigade to check compliance with the prohibition notice during a service. Around 1200 people were found to be in the main hall while the service was in progress. A fire exit could not be accessed as it was blocked by a heavy steel bar and another adjoining fire exit was chained and locked.

The risk of an explosive and fast spreading fire was increased markedly by the haphazard storage of 18 LPG and butane bottles (some of which were full) and the use of naked flame heaters inside the main hall. The number of persons within the premises and the inaccessible fire exits would have severely compromised any emergency evacuation by the congregation should a fast spreading fire have occurred.

Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety Regulation Steve Turek said: "It is regrettable that we had to bring this action against a charitable church organisation but there were significant fire safety failures. These offences presented a real risk of injury to the congregation who are our main concern. Church groups and others which organise large gatherings need to make sure their premises are fit for purpose and that they take their responsibility very seriously to ensure the safety to visitors."

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