Playing with Fire… (…and dozens of lives)

The Grenfell Tower disaster in June 2017 rocked us all. It had to.

It woke us up from decades of complacency about fire safety standards and, all of a sudden, all of those ‘what if’ scenarios from training videos became a terrible reality.

That’s why it’s hard to believe that there are still people out there willing to put other people’s lives at risk, just to save themselves some money.

Manjit Dulay, a £30 million property empire tycoon, from Rochdale, was doing just that until recently.

Back in 2014, Dulay was ordered to carry out urgent improvements at a block of more than 70 flats he owns in Leicester. Useless smoke detectors, a non functioning fire alarm system and blocked escape routes were flagged in numerous inspections, until a formal enforcement notice was issued in April 2016. The question here is, why should that even have been needed when we’re talking about the lives of innocent people. Men, women and children.

Clearly, Dulay was only ever interested in himself.

That theory was cemented in stone in 2017, when a thorough assessment by firefighters found that not one single smoke detector was functioning properly. Frightening, and so disturbed by what they found were the firefighters, that they installed properly working detectors themselves, ensuring that the tenants could stay where they were. After all, none of this was their fault

In a pathetic attempt to show some form of willing, Dulay eventually shelled out £400 for an online company to assess the needs of the building.

Retired firefighter, Martin Ballard, turned up to do the job, something he was neither trained or qualified to do.

For this reason, Ballard ended up in the dock alongside Dulay, though his incompetence is far less deplorable than the arrogance, ignorance and downright disrespect for human life that Dulay had shown for years, for his failings, disregard and even a period of absconding from bail, Dulay was given a suspended 12 month prison sentence, ordered to pay an £80, 000 fine with an additional £66, 418 in costs.

Ballard’s punishment was much less severe, as his failings were described as ‘honest but not equal to the task’.

It’s a cruel irony that this has all taken place in the wake of the Grenfell disaster, and Manjit Dulay should consider himself lucky that it wasn’t one of his properties that will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

Playing with fire is never a good idea. Playing with human lives borders on the unforgivable.

Mr Dulay is now being reminded of the necessity for compliance, but a leopard never changes its spots, and we’ll be watching this one carefully over the next few years.

Our main hope is that the innocent tenants are afforded the safety and security they deserve.


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