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Hotelier Tony Burlingham handed fine after fire safety probe at Hill House Hotel in Dereham

PUBLISHED: 17:59 18 June 2017 | UPDATED: 13:20 26 June 2017

Tony Burlingham who runs the MJB Hotels. Photo: EDP library

Tony Burlingham who runs the MJB Hotels. Photo: EDP library

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Hotelier Tony Burlingham has been ordered to pay £2,100 after refusing to properly help with a fire service probe into one of his premises.

Burlingham, 50, of Langham Hall in Holt, was on Thursday found guilty at Norwich Magistrates’ Court on two counts of failing to comply with an investigation into Hill House Hotel in Dereham, following an impromptu inspection of the building on March 24 last year.

On that day Brian Walsh, a Norfolk Fire and Rescue community fire protection manager, had been called to Hill House in response to a fire alarm sounding.

Though it was a false alarm, Mr Walsh found serious fire safety breaches including mattresses and beds stored in escape routes and a fire door held open with a brass hook and catch.

Another door, clearly marked as a fire exit, had been screwed shut.

READ MORE: Tony Burlingham claims youths have ‘completely wrecked’ one of his MJB hotels in Norwich

Records on fire extinguishers showed they had not been checked since October 2014, but should have been checked annually.

Mr Walsh said he had never come across a screwed shut fire exit in his 30 years on the job.

He said: “If a fire had started the chances are people would have been severely injured or died.”

Following the visit several letters were sent to Burlingham and Damian Payne, the hotel’s manager, to establish who the responsible person for fire safety there was.

Burlingham, who runs MJB Hotels, had named a now dissolved firm called Homefix as the responsible person.

His answers were deemed insufficient by the court.

But Sarah Le Fevre, defending, claimed Mr Walsh had already established who the responsible person was, and said the fire exit had been screwed shut under direction from Breckland council for part of the building to be re-classed as a house of multiple occupancy (HMO).

READ MORE: Fresh calls for action at Norwich’s controversial MJB hotels

Breckland had been housing vulnerable residents in the HMO part of the building, which has since reverted to use as a hotel.

Payne, 39, of Church Road, Great Plumstead, appeared in the dock alongside Burlingham. But he left the court without permission during a break and did not return.

He was found guilty on three counts of failing to comply with the investigation and was ordered to pay a £1,500 fine, £150 victim surcharge and £900 in costs.

Burlingham must pay a £1,000 fine, £100 victim surcharge and £1,000 in costs.

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