The owner of a block of flats where two young jockeys died in an arson attack has been jailed for 12 months for fire regulation breaches after a judge said he had shown “complete disregard” for the safety of residents.
Sentencing Alan Foster at Leeds Crown Court, Judge Geoffrey Marson QC said the case involved “deeply disturbing” safety breaches.
He said it was impossible to say what would have been the outcome for the two jockeys had proper fire precautions been taken. “It is clear however, that their deaths would have been significantly less likely but for these breaches.”
Jamie Kyne, 18 and Jan Wilson, 19, were trapped in a second floor flat at Buckrose Court, in Norton when a former caretaker Peter Brown started a blaze in rubbish stored beneath a stairwell after being refused entry to a party in another flat.
Judge Marson said that fire in 2009 resulted from the unlawful actions of Brown, who was later convicted and jailed for manslaughter, but Foster’s culpability was high.
He was well aware of the stored rubbish, which included furniture and tins of paint and wood treatment, since most of it was his, and a resident had complained.
“It would have been perfectly obvious to you that there was a clear risk that if this rubbish caught fire the consequences for those in the flats would be very serious.”
In the neighbouring flats inspection revealed no fire-fighting equipment in the stairs or communal area, no signage and red protective covers on smoke detectors.
Brown’s fire spread, some residents managed to escape by jumping from windows but Jan from Scotland and Jamie from Co Galway were overcome by smoke.
Foster, 65, who lived in a cottage at Buckrose Court, admitted two charges of failing to take reasonable fire precautions and two of failing to make risk assessment.
After the case Jan’s mother Margaret Wilson said: “It was basic house-keeping, it doesn’t take much to tidy up a stairwell. Lives are lost, we have to live with that, nothing can bring them back.”
Jamie’s mother Madeline Cosgrove-Kyne said they were happy with the sentence and paid tribute to the fire officers for their investigation, two of whom David Watson and Roy Ashman were commended by the judge.
Area manager David McCabe of North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said: “The case has been difficult for the fire service but it has been even more difficult for the parents and families of Jan Wilson and Jamie Kyne. What the fire authority has proved is the person responsible for the building where they died did not carefully manage and maintain them to prevent that risk of death.”