Court appeal leads to stiffer sentence

A businessman’s court appeal against a conviction for gas safety offences at his restaurant has resulted in him being handed a suspended custodial sentence.

Shokat Ali, 41, of St Lawrence Avenue, Luton, was fined a total of £6,000 and ordered to pay £2,500 costs by magistrates in October last year after admitting health and safety failings at Papadoms Indian restaurant in Daventry’s High Street.

He has now been given a suspended jail sentence for the offences which could have proved fatal. At an appeal at Northampton Crown Court earlier this month, Judge Richard Bray ruled the original sentence had been too lenient and increased it to a three-month suspended jail term.

Daventry District Council (DDC) bought the prosecution after an inspection in July revealed gas escaping from a gas cooker and gas supply pipe which had been illegally repaired with gaffer tape and tin foil. Warnings by DDC’s health and safety team were not heeded and Papadoms’ operating company Saathi Ltd and Ali were both charged.

At the appeal hearing on Tuesday, April 8, legal representatives for Ali asked that the level of fine be reduced.

Judge Bray dismissed the appeal and said magistrates should have considered a tougher custodial sentence during the original hearing. He described the offences as a reckless breach of the law.

Ali had his fines replaced for failing to ensure health and safety of company employees and customers with two three-month prison sentences, to run concurrently, suspended for two years as he was of good character.

He was also ordered to pay fines totalling £3,000 for the remaining health and safety failures and for not complying with the improvement notices, as well as costs of £1,500 and an £80 victim surcharge.

The sentence was backed by DDC. Simon Bovey, DDC chief executive said: “These were serious health and safety breaches that could have resulted in an explosion and even fatalities. All of this could have been avoided had the owner employed a gas engineer to make the proper repairs. It could have cost as little as £150 to fix but, by ignoring the problem, Mr Ali has been left with fines running into thousands of pounds as well as the threat of a prison sentence hanging over his head. As it stands he lost his business.”