Britons jailed for cross-channel people smuggling attempt

Brighton Marina
Image caption The men set out from Brighton Marina before picking up the 13 men and one child from Dieppe

Two men who tried to smuggle 13 men and a child in a boat across the English Channel into the UK have been jailed.

Boat owner Jonathan Bridgeman, 42, was jailed for two and a half years and Deshan Laci, aged 35, received a three-year term, the Home Office confirmed.

The pair had sailed from Brighton Marina to Dieppe before returning with the 14 Albanians late on 15 November, 2014, Lewes Crown Court heard.

But Bridgeman was caught when his boat had to be towed into Eastbourne.

The court heard the defendant, from Toll Gate, Burgess Hill, West Sussex, was arrested after his vessel - named Sea Paz - moored at Sovereign Harbour, Eastbourne, where his passengers tried to flee before being detained by harbour staff and police.

Illegal employment

However, Laci, a British citizen born in Albania, from Ridge Langley, South Croydon, managed to escape from the harbour.

He was eventually caught after immigration enforcement officers discovered he was the owner of a car wash in Hurstpierpoint, Sussex, where a raid on 15 February last year, confirmed an Albanian man was being employed illegally.

Bridgeman pleaded guilty at the court, on 23 October 2015, to assisting unlawful immigration into the UK. Laci admitted the same charge at a hearing on 2 September this year.

Twelve of the immigrants have since been removed from the UK and one has a pending asylum application with the Home Office, while the child had been handed over to the care of social services.

Dave Fairclough, assistant director of the Immigration Enforcement Criminal Investigations team, said the convictions indicated how different agencies work together "effectively to secure our borders".

"It is thanks to the prompt action of the harbour staff, the swift response of the police and the thorough investigation subsequently conducted by my immigration enforcement officers that Bridgeman and Laci have been brought to justice," he said.

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