Bangor on Dee shopkeeper given a suspended sentence over fireworks storage

Reporter:

Barrie White

A shopkeeper from Bangor-on-Dee, who admitted storing more than four times the legal amount of fireworks in his town centre shop, has received a suspended prison sentence.

Paul Johnson, 55, was told he had been guilty of a flagrant disregard of his responsibilities by District Judge Gwyn Jones at Flintshire Magistrates’ Court today.

The number of people who could have been put at risk was substantial, he said.

Johnson had previously pleaded guilty to six charges relating to the illegal and unsafe storage of the fireworks at his Wrexham shop over a period around Bonfire Night last year.

He received a 28-day prison sentence suspended for 12 months and was ordered to pay £1,549 costs and a £115 surcharge.

The judge said bearing in mind the number of people who could have been exposed to risk, immediate custody was justified.

His business sold beds and fireworks had been placed on beds which “posed a major risk of harm” to employees, members of the public and the occupants of adjoining buildings.

The fact he had seriously over stocked the permitted amount of fireworks also posed a major risk.

“This was a wholesale failure to recognise your health and safety obligations,” the judge said.

Johnson admitted two charges of contravening health and safety regulations along with two of failing to discharge general health, safety and welfare duty to an employee and two of being a self-employed person failing to discharge general health and safety duty to persons other than employees.

Aled Rowlands, prosecuting, said a routine visit from Trading Standard officers to Goldilocks Cottage in Henblas Street in Wrexham, in 2015 raised concerns about how Johnson was storing the fireworks in the shop which usually sold beds and furniture.

Officers found there were no fire extinguishers on the premises and no risk assessment had been carried out.

Johnson was advised of the requirements.

Another visit on October 27, 2016 found fireworks were being stored loosely on top of cabinets and a further visit on November 3, 2016 found that recommendations had been “completely ignored” with fireworks kept loosely around the shop and cabinets left unlocked.

On November 4, 2016, fireworks were still being stored loosely and they were subsequently seized.

Johnson blamed staff for the way the fireworks were kept. They had received no training in how to store or handle them and that no risk assessments had been carried out.

Mr Rowlands said live fireworks had been displayed loosely in the shop instead of being in cabinets.

Johnson, of Whitchurch Road, Bangor-on-Dee, had applied for an explosive storage licence in 2015 which allowed for 15kg of fireworks to be kept on the premises but an invoice showed that at one point 79kg of fireworks were present in the shop.

He had since surrendered his explosives storage licence.

Ceri Lewis, defending, said her client was suffering from early onset dementia and his daughter was acting as his carer.

He believed that if he surrendered the licence then he believed “that would be it” and that he would receive a caution, but was shocked to be summonsed to court.

He had sold fireworks for more than 20 years without incident, but health conditions meant he had reduced his working hours.

Miss Lewis said that the business was currently running at a loss and that it was clear he had limited means.

Email:

barrie.white@nwn.co.uk

See full story in the Whitchurch Herald

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