The owners of a central Croydon restaurant that had a catalogue of food hygiene and health and safety failures, have been hit with fines and costs totalling almost £93,000.
On Monday, Dr Mardan Mahmood and his now ex-wife, Hend Hamude, returned to Camberwell Green Magistrates’ Court for sentencing on a total of 36 charges relating to Babylon Inn, formerly at the junction of North End and Tamworth Road.
Mahmood, the director of the company that owned Babylon Inn, was fined a total of £35,000; Hamude, who had earlier denied being the food business operator, in charge of the day-to-day running of the restaurant, was fined £11,800; and the company, Babylon Inn Ltd, was fined £30,000.
In addition, the company and Mahmood were each ordered to pay £4,977 in costs, with Hamude ordered to pay £5,777.33; each defendant was also ordered to pay a £120 victim surcharge. With a total of all financial penalties amounting to £92,887.33, the individual sums were:
• Babylon Inn – £35,097.00
• Dr Mahmood – £40,097.00
• Hend Hamude – £17,693.33
A Hygiene Prohibition Order was made against Mahmood, banning him from participating in the management of any food business until such time as the order is rescinded by the courts.
The offences included breaches of food-hygiene regulations, the Health and Safety at Work Act, and the Public Health Act – the latter being the first prosecution for smoking in the workplace, after officers found cigarettes butts in the kitchen, and a chef smoking in the kitchen during a subsequent visit.
At earlier hearings, the court had been told that Babylon Inn had been subject to five food hygiene and safety visits in fewer than four years’ trading. They followed reports of sightings of live cockroaches and mice, rodents’ droppings, unacceptable cleaning standards and poor structural conditions.
The court heard that, while carrying out a routine inspection in July 2013, food safety offers found a number of breaches of hygiene regulations and that standards were very poor.
In addition to the lack of a food safety management system, poor standards of cleaning and bad structural repair were evident in the kitchen, preparation and storage rooms in the basement. There was an ongoing active infestation of rodents, with mouse and rat droppings found throughout the kitchen and food storage areas in the basement, and a live mouse was seen in the small food preparation area in the basement.
With an imminent risk to public health, it was decided the premises should close until that risk was removed.
Returning a week later, officers found that Hamude had carried out only sufficient of the pest-proofing measures to allow the business to reopen, but had failed to carry out a number of other required works.
A further visit, in April 2014, revealed continuous breaches of the food hygiene regulations, and additional health and safety contraventions. Mahmood had given assurances that the structural works had been completed, but the finish to the basement food preparation and storage areas was found to be of poor quality.
The standard of cleaning throughout the kitchen, food preparation and storage areas was very poor and similar to that of the previous July’s visit.
Evidence of German cockroaches was found in a food storage room; the food safety management system was incomplete and had not been practically implemented. Poor food-handling practices were observed, and health and safety hazards were identified, including electrical safety issues.
And, a month later, a customer reported seeing a cockroach in the restaurant’s dining area, as he ate a meal with his daughter.
A further visit on 18 June revealed continuous breaches of food hygiene regulations and health and safety contraventions, including evidence of an active German cockroach infestation throughout the kitchens and food storage areas.
Councillor Mark Watson, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice
“Having previously described the conditions in this restaurant as ‘appalling’, I’m glad to be able to say that the court, through the severe financial penalties it has imposed on all concerned, seems to have agreed with me.
“Additional to the fines imposed, the director of the company has been banned, indefinitely, from running a food business again. That’s a decision that offers the public a safeguard against his opening other food outlets that could pose a threat to the health of customers.
“It’s worth pointing out that this case is very much the exception to the rule. Croydon does much to promote good, safe and healthy food, and 79% of local food businesses are rated 3 or better in the Food Standards Agency scores-on-the-doors scheme. We have plenty of places with good standards, and those not meeting those standards are easily avoided.”