Landlord prosecuted for endangering lives

A landlord has been handed a suspended jail sentence for endangering lives after a mother, her partner and her eight-year-old daughter were poisoned by carbon monoxide at a flat in Lewisham.

Gail Calvert, her partner Stephen Clayden and the young girl inhaled large quantities of the deadly gas in a ground floor property on Iona Close, Catford, on 20 November 2011. They were saved from further harm after a carbon monoxide alarm sounded in a flat above them but they needed hospitalisation for overnight treatment.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard today (15 August) that the source of the leak was a faulty gas boiler in their flat, which they rented from David MacDonald. The spread of the carbon monoxide led to the flats being evacuated by London Fire Brigade and the gas supply to the flats being disconnected by Southern Gas Networks.

The landlord had a legal duty of care to maintain the appliance and ensure it was checked and certified at least once a year by a Gas Safe registered engineer. However, an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive revealed evidence of poor maintenance and demonstrated the boiler was emitting high levels of carbon monoxide.

David Francis MacDonald, of The Peabody Estate, Camberwell Green, had earlier pleaded guilty to two separate breaches of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 for ignoring his responsibilities. He was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, ordered to carry out 200 hours’ community service and ordered to pay £8,211 in costs.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Kevin Shorten said:

“Carbon monoxide can kill quickly without warning and approximately 20 people die each year as a result of poisoning from gas appliances and flues that haven’t been properly installed, maintained or that are poorly ventilated. Had a neighbour’s carbon monoxide alarm not sounded, the family could well be amongst that number.

“As a landlord, David Macdonald is legally responsible for the safety of his tenants in relation to gas checks, and in failing to properly maintain the boiler he placed them, and others, in grave danger.

“I hope today’s prosecution sends a clear message to all landlords that they mustn’t shirk or ignore their responsibilities because the consequences can be devastating.”

Further information about gas safety can be found online at