THE former boss of a Wrexham town centre store has been prosecuted after failing to keep fire exits clear at the premises.

Simon Andrew Roberts, 42, of Anglesey Close, Acton, was taken to court by North Wales Fire and Rescue in the first prosecution of its kind by the service.

He pleaded guilty at Wrexham Magistrates’ Court yesterday to three charges of failing to ensure fire exits were kept clear at the CEX game and DVD exchange store on Queen Street.

The court was told Roberts, who took out a franchise with CEX to open the store in 2008, was under police investigation at the time.

Firefighters descended on the shop on December 17 as part of a raid which also involved police.

Prosecutor Peter Brown said fire officers came across two instances of a staircase and exit being obstructed by boxes and a roller shutter which covered a fire exit being padlocked.

He said: “Following the inspection by the fire and rescue service a notice was served on Mr Roberts. It is fair to say that order was complied with within a day or so.”

Alan Williams, defending, said: “In May 2008 Roberts took out a franchise with CEX.
The search of the premises were brought about as a result of a police investigation, initially.

“As far as that is concerned, it is ongoing and as a result of that he has lost his franchise and has been excluded from going anywhere near the premises. It’s fair to say that, financially, CEX has been a disaster from Mr Roberts’ perspective. He is still on police bail because of this business dispute and his assets have been frozen.

“On December 17 he was met by police officers and hadn’t yet opened for the day. It is accepted that the fire doors were locked but they would be because if you left them open you wouldn’t have much stock left when you came back.”

He added: “Mr Roberts has no previous convictions whatsoever.”

Magistrates adjourned sentencing until August 19 to allow time for a pre-sentence Probation Service report to be prepared and told Roberts he was facing a medium to high level community order.

He was given unconditional bail.

Mike Hough, North Wales Fire and Rescue Service legislation manager, said: “Our duty is to work with owners and occupiers to make their premises safe from fire and to comply with the requirements of the legislation.

“However, where there is a blatant disregard for the safety of employees or the public, we will not hesitate to use a range of enforcement measures which include prosecution.”