AN ABINGDON takeaway had £20,000 wiped off the fine it must pay for breaching fire safety rules – after the Court of Appeal agreed that the original £120,000 penalty was ‘manifestly excessive’.

Dub Catering Ltd was handed the huge bill by Judge Michael Gledhill QC at Oxford Crown Court last summer after it admitted four breaches of fire safety regulations at Sami’s Barbeque and Pizza takeaway in Ock Street, Abingdon.

2019 inspection

It followed an inspection in 2019, when it was found that a malfunctioning sprinkler system had been removed by director Mustafa Dumanli just nine days earlier.

READ MORE: Takeaway fined £120k for fire safety breaches

Other flaws were found in how the safety regulations were followed in the 100-year-old building, where staff members routinely slept in accommodation upstairs. They included inadequate fire doors - although the same doors had been green-lit by council building control inspectors when they signed off renovation works eight years earlier.

After the inspection, the takeaway was slapped with a prohibition notice immediately banning anyone from sleeping upstairs. Thousands of pounds was then spent on fixing the fire safety problems at the business, which had a five-star hygiene rating.

Oxford Mail: The upstairs bedroom at Sami's Picture: OFRSThe upstairs bedroom at Sami's Picture: OFRS


Appearing before the Court of Appeal on Tuesday, Dub Catering’s barrister Laura Phillips said the fine was manifestly excessive.

She said the judge was wrong to have viewed the company’s culpability – or blameworthiness – as very high.

Sentencing guidelines for health and safety cases defined ‘very high culpability’ as, for example, a ‘flagrant disregard for the law’.

The company had ‘tried its incompetent best’, she argued. The directors had not appreciated the sprinkler system, which had malfunctioned and ruined food in the kitchen, was there to protect those sleeping upstairs. The sprinklers were out of action for nine days before the 2019 inspection and remedial works were quickly carried out.

READ MORE: Sami's will appeal £120k fine

Ms Phillips asked the panel of three justices to consider the company had not been in trouble before, had an excellent hygiene score, and director Mustafa Dumanli had also been given a suspended sentence for breaching the regulations.

The firm turned over £641,000 in 2021 of which £212,000 was profit, but the profits in 2019 – the year of the inspection – were £124,000. Ms Phillips asked the firm was given two years to pay any fine.

Oxford Mail: The upstairs rooms at Sami's Picture: OFRSThe upstairs rooms at Sami's Picture: OFRS


Allowing the appeal, Mr Justice Bourne said: “In our judgement the judge was not bound to view this as a case of flagrant disregard for the law. Disconnecting the sprinkler system was an act of folly but the judge expressly accepted the directors had not thought through the consequences. The fire doors, although inadequate, had been approved by a building control.”

The £120,000 fine was quashed and replaced with a £100,000 fine. The company has a year to pay.

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This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire's court and crime reporter.  

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