England

Cross-Channel roof box people smuggler jailed

The three people lying inside the roof box Image copyright Home Office
Image caption The three people were found in the locked airless roof box by Border Force officers

A man who smuggled three Vietnamese people into the UK in a car roof box has been jailed for three years.

Robert Rooney, 34, was stopped by Border Force after driving his Ford Fiesta into the UK control zone at Coquelle, France, on 5 October.

He told officials the roof box contained camping equipment but two men and a girl, 15, were found inside, Maidstone Crown Court heard.

The roof box was locked and had no ventilation, Border Force said.

Image copyright Home Office
Image caption Robert Rooney was stopped at the UK border checkpoint in France

Judge Catherine Brown said had there been a delay in the crossing, or an accident on the road, it "could very well have had tragic consequences".

Sentencing him, she added: "It was a high-risk venture."

Image copyright Home Office
Image caption A 15-year-old girl was found with two unrelated men, Border Force said

Dave Fairclough, Deputy Director of Immigration Enforcement Criminal and Financial Investigations, told the BBC: "Robert Rooney went abroad on the pretence of going for a fishing trip and to meet his brother.

"In fact his motive was much more sinister. This was a determined effort to go and meet with people smugglers based in Calais. He had an arrangement with them to collect the three clandestine migrants."

He said the girl was not related to the two men which would suggest she was a victim of human trafficking.

Image copyright Home Office
Image caption Rooney claimed the roof box contained camping equipment

Dan Scully, Border Force Regional Director, said: "Smuggling people into the UK in this way is incredibly dangerous and puts the lives of the individuals at huge risk.

"Crammed into a confined space inside the roof box must have been terrifying."

Rooney, of North Mall, in Edmonton, London, had pleaded guilty to a charge of facilitating the commission of a breach of UK immigration law at a hearing on 8 January.

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