Northern Ireland

Essex lorry deaths: Christopher Hughes' firm loses HGV licence

Christopher Hughes and Ronan Hughes Image copyright Essex Police
Image caption Christopher (left) and Ronan Hughes are wanted on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking

Christopher Hughes, who is wanted by police in connection with the deaths of 39 people in a lorry in Essex, has lost his heavy goods vehicles (HGV) licence.

Mr Hughes and his brother Ronan were named as suspects exactly one month ago after 39 Vietnamese nationals were found dead in a refrigerated lorry.

At a public inquiry in Belfast, his firm - C Hughes Logistics Ltd - with an address in Armagh, had its licence to operate several vehicles revoked.

Christopher Hughes did not attend.

He was not represented at Friday's hearing in Belfast's Killymeal House.

Christopher Hughes' lawyers, Logan and Corry Solicitors, had earlier asked for an adjournment but their request was denied.

Their client previously held a HGV licence for the Republic of Ireland which was withdrawn in January 2016 because of infringements.

Christopher Hughes also had a separate licence granted in Northern Ireland in 2015.

Both licences allowed him to operate HGV vehicles across the EU in all member states.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption The bodies were discovered in the lorry in the early hours of 23 October

The revocation of his licence is related to the loss of his Republic of Ireland licence.

It is possible to hold more than one licence.

Mr Hughes should have informed authorities in Northern Ireland about the loss of his Republic of Ireland licence.

He lost his Republic of Ireland licence because his drivers were driving for longer time periods than is legally allowed.

Christopher Hughes, 34, and his 40-year-old brother Ronan are wanted for questioning by Essex Police on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking.

Both men have links to Armagh in Northern Ireland and Monaghan in the Republic of Ireland.

John Martin from the Road Haulage Association (RHA) said that as a result of the public inquiry, Christopher Hughes' HGV vehicles "should not be operating anywhere within the EU - in other words they should be taken off the road immediately."

He added that in other parts of the UK, public inquires over HGV licences happen regularly, but Friday's hearing appeared to be "the first public inquiry to be held in Northern Ireland for a protracted period of time".

"I couldn't say specifically, but probably at least three years," Mr Martin added.

"I think it's up to the Department [of Infrastructure] to give some insight in to the reason for holding this PI today, and was it linked in any way to the issues in Essex?"

The BBC has asked the Department of Infrastructure for a response.

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