New Look fined £400,000 for fire safety breaches

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The Independent Online

A top High Street chain was fined a record £400,000 for fire safety breaches today after a devastating blaze turned one of their Oxford Street branches into a potential death trap.

The New Look store, which had been stricken by inadequate emergency exits and poor staff training, was also ordered to pay more than £136,000 costs for what Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC said could have been a "disaster almost too awful to contemplate".

London's Southwark Crown Court heard the place had been packed with early evening shoppers when smoke began pouring from a second storey window.

Even though the alarm sounded, it was mysteriously turned off and customers were allowed to continue making purchases.

Even when it reset itself and began again, staff failed to react.

It was only when passers-by shouted warnings that they realised there was a problem, started "panicking" and ordered everyone out.

The court was told that by the time people began streaming through the front door, smoke was billowing from the building and windows were being blown out.