A MILLIONAIRE landlord who built up a property empire put the lives of tenants in danger at a “deathtrap” house he owned.

Newport businessman Lewis Marshall, 61, was handed a suspended jail sentence after a jury found him guilty of a raft of fire safety offences.

They related to two Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) that he was responsible for on the city’s Chepstow Road.

Andrew Jones, representing South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, told a jury at Cardiff Crown Court: “You will hear a catalogue of breaches and failures relating to these premises that could have been potentially fatal should a fire have broken out.

“And if it had, fire doors were not fit for purpose, smoke alarms and detectors were non-existent, fire escapes were not safe to use and the fire extinguishers were out of date.

“All of these were the responsibility of the defendant – no one else – and he failed to discharge a single one of those.”

Referring to one of the properties on Chepstow Road, Mr Jones added: “To the outside world it was just a normal everyday house in multiple accommodation.

“Inside, it was a potential deathtrap.”

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The jury were told that Marshall was given “numerous chances to engage and remedy the situation – he chose to ignore all correspondence”.

He was found guilty of 21 counts, relating to offences committed between 2016 and 2016, following a five-day trial.

David Leathley, representing Marshall, mitigating, said: “This man had quite a substantial property empire.

“He’s not a man in good health. He’s now bankrupt.”

Mr Leathley added: “He was at one time a multi-millionaire he’s told me but his portfolio has collapsed.

“He is hopelessly now in debt.”

Marshall, formerly of Caerleon Road, Newport, was jailed for six months, suspended for 12 months by Judge Christopher Vosper QC.

He also ordered him to pay the prosecution’s costs of £36,623 and fined him £1,900.

Simon Roome, group manager and head of the business fire safety department for South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Our role is to work with businesses and landlords across South Wales to support them to protect their businesses from the risk of fire.

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“Those responsible for flats and HMOs need to take note of this verdict and ensure that occupants of premises they look after are safe and that they are not in breach of fire safety regulations.

“The fire safety legislation we enforce, known as the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, is designed to keep occupants safe. “Where we find breaches of this legislation it is our duty to take action to prevent death or serious injury.

“The decision to prosecute businesses is never taken lightly, however there was a serious risk to the residents, and this was attributed directly to the actions of the individual responsible.”

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