Lakanal House fire deaths: Council fined for safety breaches

Image source, PA
Image caption,
There had been a major refurbishment carried out on the building in 2006 and 2007, but it "did not identify" a number of fire safety failings

A council has been fined for breaching fire safety regulations after a tower block blaze in 2009 killed three women and three children.

Southwark Council in London expressed its "sincere regret" as it pleaded guilty to the four charges last week.

A £400,000 fine was reduced to £270,000 because the council pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.

The fire started in Lakanal House, Camberwell, due an electrical fault with a television.

Southwark Council must also pay £300,000 costs, Southwark Crown Court ruled.

The victims all lived on the 11th floor.

They were: Dayana Francisquini, 26, and her children, six-year-old Thais, and Felipe, three; Helen Udoaka, 34, and her three-week-old daughter Michelle; and 31-year-old Catherine Hickman.

The charges, dating from 1 October 2006 to 3 July 2009, included a failure to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment, failure to take general fire precautions - including in relation to safety of employees - and a failure to ensure that premises were subject to a suitable system of maintenance.

Image source, Family handout
Image caption,
Helen Udoaka and her three-week-old daughter died in the blaze
Image source, Handout
Image caption,
Catherine Hickman died in the blaze

The council was taken to court by London Fire Brigade.

The court heard deficiencies included:

  • Absence of strips or seals on doors in the building
  • Suspended ceilings which lacked cavity barriers which could have reduced the risk of fire spreading
  • Inadequate fire-resisting boxing-in (or fire protection) to the timber stairs where they cut across the common corridor

Richard Matthews QC, for the council, expressed "sincere regret for the failures that were present in the building".

The court heard there had been a major refurbishment on the building in 2006 and 2007.

Mr Matthews said it was a matter of "enormous disappointment and regret" that those works did not identify failures in boxing-in, failures in the ceilings and failures regarding signage on balconies.

London Fire Brigade's assistant commissioner for fire safety Dan Daly said: "The fire at Lakanal House was a particularly harrowing incident and our thoughts remain with the families and loved ones of those who died."

He added he hoped lessons would be learned "so we can reduce the likelihood of such a devastating fire ever happening again".