Landlord jailed after flat fire
Posted Tue, 11 May 2010
A landlord who failed to provide "even the most basic protection" for tenants has been jailed after a teenager was "lucky" to survive a flat fire.
Barmaid Layla Skalli, who was 19 at the time, suffered devastating 80% burns in the inferno.
Michael Billings, of Beccles, Suffolk, was sent to prison for two-and-a-half years. The Health and Safety Executive prosecuted Billings following the blaze at Miss Skalli's home in April 2009.
At Norwich Crown Court, Billings pleaded guilty to charges of breaking health and safety and fire safety legislation. He was ordered to pay court costs of £20,000.
"Only pioneering skin grafting techniques saved Layla Skalli's life after she suffered 80% deep tissue burns all over her body," said a HSE spokesman.
"Virtually all the skin below her neck was destroyed by the intense 600 degree heat as the property above a mobile phone shop became a raging inferno."
The spokesman said Billings, in his 50s, failed to provide "even the most basic protection" for tenants.
He said the landlord had not fitted a working fire alarm system, installed the correct number of fire doors or provided adequate means of escape.
Gas appliances in the flats above the shop had also not been serviced or properly inspected, he added.
Miss Skalli had been unable to escape because her sash window could only be opened 4in and the staircase was blocked by smoke, said the spokesman.
The cause of the fire has never been conclusively proven.
Miss Skalli's brother Andrew added: "The actions of Michael Billings have ruined my sister's life.
"We want to remind every landlord that they have a legal and moral obligation to the safety of their tenants, something Billings gave no thought to hence why he has been sentenced."
HSE inspector John Claxton said: "This is the most distressing case I have worked on during my 31 years as a HSE inspector."
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