WHEN inspectors swooped on the Great Western Two For One pub in June last year they found filthy sinks, fridges that didn't shut and staff who had little or no hygiene training.

At Swindon Magistrates' Court the owner, Spirit Group, was fined £22,500 for four breaches of food and hygiene laws and two more health and safety violations.

After Spirit Group entered guilty pleas to all six charges, the court heard that health inspector Louise Doughty had been shocked by the lack of cleanliness at the Shaw Ridge pub.

Phillip Wirth, prosecuting, said Mrs Doughty had first visited the pub on June 2 when she had met relief manager Nathan Sutton.

He said: "Mrs Doughty advised the relief manager that she wanted to inspect all food hygiene areas, pest control and the hazard analysis documents."

But while at the premises she saw a number of worrying signs.

"On the way to inspect the kitchen she noticed an eight-inch hole in the floor," Mr Wirth said.

"Items had also been piled up against the fire exit."

Hand basins in the kitchens and staff room were stained and covered in grime, and emergency exit lights were not working.

By a dirty toilet Mrs Doughty found an abandoned plate of burger and chips, and rubber seals on fridges had perished, leaving them ajar.

In the kitchen, chefs with no food hygiene training records were working with inadequate headgear and uncovered facial piercings.

Mrs Doughty returned the next day to find the pub slightly cleaner, but she was still not satisfied.

Swindon Council's environmental health team served four notices requiring management to thoroughly clean the pub and produce evidence of staff hygiene training.

Tanya Robinson, defending, said: "I must note that the standards that were found by the officers at the Great Western in June of last year were plainly not acceptable and below that required by the Spirit Group."

She said the head chef, premises manager and business manager had all since been sacked.

"It is clear that they failed to follow clear company procedures as to health and safety, food hygiene and appropriate training," she said.

Miss Robinson passed a copy of the company accounts to the chairwoman of the bench, Ruth Fitzsimmons, which showed losses of more than £40m.

She said the pub would be leased by July 16, probably to be converted into a Chinese restaurant.

Mrs Fitzsimmons said: "We believe there was an abject failure to implement the procedures that would have been normal in this service."

Spirit Group was ordered to pay £3,750 for each of the six offences, and a further £4,088.42 in costs.

Speaking afterwards, a spokeswoman for the Spirit Group said: "We take all matters of food hygiene and health and safety very seriously and we regret that on this occasion the pub did not meet the high standards we set.

"We have since appointed a new manager at the Great Western and a new area manager."

It is not the first time Spirit Group has been in trouble in the courts. Last month the company was fined £17,500 for seven breaches of health and safety at one of its premises in Edinburgh.

Nancy Chamberlain, the manager of Swindon Council's safety and food team, said: "It was an excellent result which reflects the seriousness of the case.

"As the magistrate said, it was very serious, an abject failure on the part of the defendant.

"If you look at the cases nationwide with Spirit Group it follows a similar pattern.

"As a larger company there is no excuse for such a failure of standards.

"The small firms might rely on health officers to set them straight, but a national company should be able to cascade instructions and information to their branches."