Penhallow Hotel Company pleads guilty to fire safety charges



The company that owned the Penhallow Hotel where three people died in a fire in August 2007 has admitted breaches of fire safety legislation.

O & C Holdsworth plc pleaded guilty to two offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005;

  • Failing to carry out a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment
  • Failing to ensure the hotel was properly equipped with detectors and alarms

The company pleaded not guilty to a third charge of failing to ensure the safety of relevant persons.

But John McMillan, a director of the company, and administration manager Nicola Burfitt, were formally found not guilty of the same three charges. Their not guilty pleas were accepted by the prosecution, on the basis that the company accepted responsibility of a failure of their systems, rather than failings of individuals.


A spokesperson for Cornwall County Council said:

“The company accepted responsibility by way of the failure of their systems rather than the failings of particular individuals. This was acceptable to the prosecution. Following this, it was considered no longer in the public interest to pursue John McMillan and Nicola Burfitt.”


The case has been adjourned to 4 May when O & C Holdsworth plc is due be sentenced. Consideration is being given to representations on behalf of another defendant, Martin Tricker, of Hawthorne Safety Consultants.


In welcoming the guilty pleas, a statement from Cornwall County Council said:

“The decision by Cornwall Council and the fire and rescue service to proceed with prosecution under this legislation was taken after a comprehensive investigation into the fire precautions at the hotel and reflects the seriousness of this case”.

“The investigation revealed a number of breaches of the fire precautions, the most serious of which related to the fire risk assessment”.

“The success of this prosecution will send out a very clear message to the hotel and leisure industry, where sleeping accommodation is provided, of the importance of adhering to fire safety legislation and ensuring the management of fire precautions is a high priority”.

“The fire and rescue service in Cornwall is continuing to work with the families of those who lost their lives in the fire to offer support.”


Last year, an inquest into the deaths of the three guests – Joan Harper, Monica Hughes and Peter Hughes, all from Staffordshire – returned an open verdict.