Negligence costs landlord who ignored his obligations £32,000


A judge today (Tuesday October 20) praised the courage and bravery of two men after fire took hold of a house of multiple occupancy.

Douglas Lindsay, 54, ran into the burning terraced home in Luton to rescue Eugeniu Hincu, who had desperately tried to save another resident.

Mr Lindsay, who had been eating in a nearby restaurant, went outside when a waiter said there was a fire.

The 5 foot 10 tall ground worker kicked at a bedroom door and managed to drag Mr Hincu, who is 6 feet 2, down the stairs, putting him on the wall.

Mr Hincu, a construction worker from Moldova, suffered 50 per cent burns and was in hospital in a coma for four weeks.

The man Mr Hincu had been trying to save, Lithuanian Evaldas Grisciukas, was found dead by firefighters.

Today the two men met for the first time since the fire and hugged outside Luton crown court. Mr Lindsay told him that when he pulled him out, Mr Hincu hugged him and said: “Thank you.”

They were there for the sentencing of Bhagwent Sagoo, who was managing the two storey mid terrace house for his daughter-in-law.

Sagoo, 63, of Old Bedford Road, Luton, appeared for sentence having pleaded guilty to contravening a fire safety order.

He was sentenced to four months’ jail suspended for 12 months. He was also fined £20,000 with £12,000 costs.

Andrew Johnson, who was prosecuting on behalf of Luton Borough Council, said the fire broke out at 311 Hitchin Road shortly after 8pm on Wednesday March 27 last year.

The house had three bedrooms and two reception rooms. At the time, there were seven people living there. “It was a crowded three bedroomed property,” said Mr Johnson.

In a defence basis of plea, Mr Sagoo said he was unaware of the number of people living at the house for £800 a month rent. That had been arranged by a man who had been illegally renting out the room and who has since disappeared, the court heard.

Mr Johnson said: “Mr Douglas Lindsay was dining in a nearby restaurant to the fire. He was alerted to the fire and quite heroically, and notwithstanding the very difficult conditions, was able to rescue Mr Hincu.

“Mr Hincu had got into difficulties trying to rescue Mr Grisciukas.

“Mr Lindsay sought to return to the property, but his family members stopped him going back a second time.”

Judge Steven Evans said: “It would not have been possible for him to have reached anybody else. It is remarkable that he achieved what he did.”

Mr Johnson said there had been a failure to carry out a proper risk assessment, or any risk assessment at all, at the house.

A fire investigation found that none of the rooms had smoke, heat or fire detectors. He said there was no interlinked alarm system and no fire resistant doors.

He said the fire was probably caused by a cigarette discarded by Mr Grisciukas.

Defending, Christopher Johnston said Sagoo has no previous convictions and was a man of positive good character.

He said Sagoo, who was originally from Glasgow where he was a teacher, had no idea the house was being let out as one of multiple occupancy.

Mr Johnston said he had suffered serious health conditions. He sent the judge character references outlining the voluntary work he carries out for young people.

Sentencing him, Judge Evans said: “It hardly needs stating that the consequences were a tragedy for Mr Grisciukas and his family and had a significant impact on Mr Hincu.

“There was inadequate fire safety precautions. An interlinked fire detection would have given early warning.”

He told Sagoo: “Your sin is that of omission. You were receiving money on behalf of your family and you ought to have known who was in that house. Through lack of precautions, you put seven people at risk.”

Mr Hincu, who is now on universal credit as he cannot work because of his injuries, is still looking for accommodation. The judge told him: “You were selfless and you did what you could to save him and you suffered very significantly.”

Mr Hincu said he did not know the man who died as he had only lived there for a few weeks. When he realised there was a fire he said he pushed open his door and saw him lying on his back in a room full of smoke.

He ran downstairs for help but, when he did not get any, he ran back upstairs and tried to pull out Mr Grisciukas.

“I think I may have collapsed. The next thing, I was rescued by a customer in a cafe who saw the smoke. I woke up after a month. I was in the burns unit.

“I suffered 50 per cent burns. I am lucky to be alive. I have had lots of skin grafts and I still have flashbacks.”

The judge said actions by Mr Lindsay, who had run upstairs and kicked a door before he came across Mr Hincu, had saved his life.

He told him: “You are an extraordinarily brave man. You saved the life of another person. I hope you take pride in what you have done.”

Both men were commended by the judge and will receive a token £250 from public funds.

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