Attorney General v Chaudry

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
JudgeTHE MASTER OF THE ROLLS,LORD JUSTICE PHILLIMORE,LORD JUSTICE MEGAW
Judgment Date08 July 1971
Judgment citation (vLex)[1971] EWCA Civ J0708-3
Date08 July 1971
CourtCourt of Appeal (Civil Division)
Between
Greater London Council and Hsr Majesty'S Attorney-General (at the relation of the Greater London Council)
Plaintiffs Respondents
and
S. A. Chaudry (Male)
and
A.R.S. Chaudry (Married Woman)
Defendants Appellants

[1971] EWCA Civ J0708-3

Before

The Master of the Rolls (Lord Denning)

Lord Justice Phillimore and

Lord Justice Megaw

In The Supreme Court of Judicature

Court of Appeal

Appeal by defendants from order of Mr. Justice Plowman on 7th July, 1971.

Mr. IAN McCULLOUGH (instructed by Messrs. Badham Comins & Main, agents for Messrs. Bliss Sons & Covell of High Wycombe, Bucks) appeared on behalf of the Appellant Defendants.

Mr. RICHARD R.F. SCOTT (instructed by Mr. H.F.W. Wilson, Solicitor to the Greater London Council) appeared on behalf of the Respondent Plaintiffs.

THE MASTER OF THE ROLLS
1

We need not trouble you, Mr. Scott.

2

In 1967 Mr. and Mrs. Chaudry acquired three houses in the Paddington area, Nos. 52, 54 and 56 Inverness Terrace. They decided to unite these three houses and make them into a hotel. They did some work without getting proper permission beforehand. But after this was discovered in November of 1969 the London County Council granted permission provided that certain conditions were fulfilled for safety in the event of fire, such as making proper exits and so forth. After that conditional permission was given, Mr. and Mrs. Chaudry did do some work; but they also did other work for which no permission had been given. They turned the three houses into a hotel and called it the Hyde Park International Hotel and took in residents. When this came to the knowledge of the Greater London Council, they asked for plans of the extra work. After much delay, plans were produced, but these were very inaccurate and incomplete. In consequence on the 22nd June of this year the Greater London Council made an inspection. They found there was a very serious risk of fire. One of their staff, Mr. Wilson, has made an affidavit explaining it. He says that Nos. 54 and 56 ought to have two separate staircases; but they are now no longer separate. The staircase of No. 36 runs into the ground floor of No. 54; and the consequence is that the two staircases are exposed to the same fire hazzard. Mr. Wilson goes on to say in the affidavit:

3

"A fire that occurred in any of the rooms used as the bar, reception entrance, lobby, lounge, dining-room or kitchen would, if it rendered one staircase unusable, at the same time, render the other staircase unusable. In short, for practical purposes, there is only one downward fire escape route for the guests in 54 and 56. Moreover, the rooms atthe back of the buildings are inaccessible to ladders. In this situation a fire could easily result in the occupants of the upper storey of 54 and 56 and of the rear bedroom block being trapped in their rooms. The danger would be compounded by a degree of panic which would inevitably occur

4

"Mr. Wilson added this significant sentence: "I have had some experience of fire risks in London buildings and while I have no wish to be alarmist, it is my considered opinion that in the event of a fire on the ground floor of 54 and 36 Inverness Terrace taking hold, there would, if the premises were occupied, be loss of life."

5

Mr. Wilson went himself on the 28th June to inspect the premises. He was told that the rooms were not occupied. But he goes on to say:

6

"… on inspecting these rooms, I observed that a large number of the beds had clearly been slept in the night before. It appeared to me from my inspection that both 54 and 56 were currently accommodating guests."

7

It is quite plain that the defendants are breaking the law. Section 34(4) of the London Buildings Acts (Amendment) Act, 1939, says that no building which requires means of escape shall be occupied or let for occupation until the Council have issued a certificate. The Council certainly have not issued a certificate in this case.

8

But what is the remedy for the breach? Mr. McCullough submits that the only remedy is by taking proceedings in the Magistrates Court. He refers to the sections of the Act which make contravention an offence: and also to section 34(5), which enables the Magistrates Court to issue a prohibition. It says:-"Where any person has been convicted of an offence against this Act by reason of a contravention of the provisions of this section a court of summary jurisdiction may notwithstanding the imposition of any fine and without prejudice to any other powers conferred on the court by this or any other Act make an order prohibiting the occupation of the building" -

9

In pursuance of the statute summonses have been issued against Mr. and Mrs. Chaudry in the Marylebone Magistrates Court. They are criminal proceedings. The date for hearing is the 1st September. So there are some eight weeks to go. The Greater London Council feel that the risk of fire is so great that action should be taken at once to stop these houses being occupied. They have accordingly, by leave of the Attorney-General, brought proceedings for an injunction to restrain Mr. and Mrs. Chaudry from using these buildings for occupation in breach of the law.

10

There are many statutes which provide penalties for breach of them -...

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