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'Bullfinch' guest house's 23 failings in safety inspection
Buy this photo » Nanford Guest House has been in the spotlight since Operation Bullfinch. Picture: Jon Lewis
A NOTORIOUS guest house could be forced to close if the owner fails to comply with legal notices served for a catalogue of health and safety failings.
Oxford City Council issued the Nanford Guest House, Iffley Road, Oxford, with 23 notices after it was found to be in breach of regulations including fire escape problems, a faulty boiler and unsafe electrics.
They were discovered following a raid by police and council environmental health officers in June. This came in the wake of the Bullfinch child sex exploitation trial.
Yesterday the council said it had served the notices under the Health and Safety at Work Act on the owner Jeremiah Cronin, 81, on top of the immediate issues that had to be addressed before it could re-open the day after the raid.
Last night Andrew Smith, MP for Oxford East, said it was time for the city council to take further action.
s Continued on Page 2s Continued from Page 1 Mr Smith said: “I have been in close touch with nearby residents, and there is rightly a lot of concern about these premises.”
The hotel has been the subject of intense scrutiny in the fallout of the Operation Bullfinch case, in which seven men were jailed for the abuse of girls as young as 11 across Oxford.
Mr Smith added: “There has been such a catalogue of problems including serious safety issues, as well as the horrific crime of the Bullfinch case, that things have gone well beyond the point where people say ‘enough is enough’ and want it closed down.
“Along with their right to run a business – and there is a legitimate demand for this type of accommodation – the owners have a responsibility to operate the premises to a fit and proper standard.
“It is clear from all these notices that they haven’t been doing that, which puts people staying there at risk, and is a constant worry for neighbours.”
The notices were served due to threat of serious personal injury, and the electrical systems were considered so dangerous that work was required immediately.
The East Oxford hotel was named in court as a location used by the Bullfinch gang members to drug, rape and beat teenage girls.
Following the raid in June, the city council demanded electrical improvements to all six properties that make up the hotel and said it was in breach of numerous health and safety regulations.
Officers discovered unsafe access to basements, missing handrails, and a poorly maintained workroom. A legal notice was also served under food safety legislation requiring improvements to food safety management at the guest house.
The guest house, which charges £50 per night for a double room, has become notorious on hotel rating website Tripadvisor as the worst in Oxford and one of the lowest ranked in the UK.
The mostly negative reviews vary from “awful, for your sanity’s sake don’t stay here” to “worst experience ever”, but some praise the hotel for its cheap rates.
In June owner Jeremiah Cronin, 81, and his sons, Bartholomew, 49, and John, 48, were arrested on suspicion of being a landlord letting premises for use as a brothel, causing or inciting child prostitution for gain, and encouraging or assisting in an offence believing it will be committed, namely rape and child prostitution.
They will answer bail next Wednesday. Oxford City Council spokesman Chris Lee said a number of detailed inspections had taken place and the electrical safety systems in every property had been tested.
He added: “The improvement works are still ongoing and checks are being regularly made by environmental health officers to ensure compliance with the legal notices.”
'There will always be improvements needed'.
Manager of the Nanford Guest House John Cronin, a former humanitarian volunteer, said: “It is an old building dating from Victorian times and there will always be improvements that are needed, it is the same as any old guest house.
“You can either spend a fortune getting outside help in or do it yourself, and I work on it every day except for Sunday.
“I am sure the council could come in and spend £1m doing it up, but you have to take it for what it is.
“There is no cheaper hotel in Oxford outside of hostels and we have done well this year.
“It was used by the council as a homeless shelter for 20 years and has taken some punishment from that. There has been a crossover into tourism and that does take time to turn around.
“If it wasn’t up to scratch people wouldn’t come here – the acid test is to stay.
“People have found that they do like to come and use it again.
“We will have to live with the attention for now, but we are trying to move on. Most of the notices related to old sheds at the rear of the property which have now been sorted out.
“The food issue arose after I had been arrested. There was no instruction left to fill in some of the books and the council acted as they believed there was a problem with storage of food. It has since been resolved.”
Links to Bullfinch.
- During the Operation Bullfinch trial the Nanford Guest House was named as one of several locations across Oxford used by a grooming gang who plied underage girls with drugs and alcohol before raping and beating them.
- The owners have continually protested they knew nothing of the activities going on and would have acted had they known.
- The Old Bailey heard a recording of a 999 call to police about the attack of Girl 3 by Bassam Karrar in the budget Iffley Road hotel in November 2006.
- Hotel visitor Christopher Buckley said he called police after hearing what he thought was a “prostitute being slapped about”.
- Six separate improvements for every residence served for immediate electrical works s Areas of dangerous and uneven areas of flooring at the rear of 131-141 Iffley Road.
- Accumulations of waste at the rear of 131-141 Iffley Road.
- No edge protection at the rear 131 Iffley Road.
- Missing handrails at the rear of 131 Iffley Road.
- Poorly maintained workroom at the rear of 131/133 Iffley Road.
- Inadequate storage in a workroom at the rear of 131/133 Iffley Road.
- Poorly maintained workroom at the rear of 133/135 Iffley Road.
- Defective flooring in a workroom at the rear of 133/135 Iffley Road.
- A second poorly maintained workroom at the rear of 133/135 Iffley Road.
- Inadequate storage in a workroom to the rear of 133/135 Iffley Road.
- Unsafe access to a basement at the rear of 133 Iffley Road.
- Inadequate edge protection around the basement access to the rear of 133 Iffley Road.
- Inadequate edge protection to the rear of 135 Iffley Road.
- No edge protection to the basement access to the stairwell leading to the basement of 135 Iffley Road.
- Missing handrails to the rear of 135 Iffley Road.
- Inadequate storage in a workroom at the rear of 135 Iffley Road.
- A poorly-maintained workroom at the rear of 135/137 Iffley Road.
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