The sentencing of four people-smugglers linked to the deaths of 39 migrants has concluded at the Old Bailey today. Four men have been sentenced in this case, including the two ringleaders.
The victims were Vietnamese men, women and children who had hoped for a better life in Britain. They agreed to pay up to £13,000 each for a “VIP” smuggling service. The 39 people were crammed into a lorry on the 22nd of October 2019 and were to be shipped from Zeebrugge to Purfleet in Essex. The people were found dead by lorry driver Maurice Robinson the next morning.
Mr Justice Sweeney said: “I have no doubt that, as asserted by the prosecution, the conspiracy was a sophisticated, long running and profitable one to smuggle mainly Vietnamese migrants across the channel.”
In his sentencing remarks, he added that, during the trip, the temperature in the lorry, along with the carbon dioxide levels had been rising. It hit 40C while the container was at sea.
“There were desperate attempts to contact the outside world by phone and to break through the roof of the container,” Mr Justice Sweeney said.
“All were to no avail and before the ship reached Purfleet (the victims) all died in what must have been an excruciatingly painful death.”
Mr Justice Sweeney added: “The willingness of the victims to try and enter the country illegally provides no excuse for what happened to them.”
Two of the people-smuggling ringleaders, Ronan Hughes, 41, and Gheorghe Nica were sentenced for 20 years and 27 years respectively.
On Friday, Maurice Robinson, who also admitted to money-laundering, received 13 years and four months imprisonment. Eamonn Harrison was given 18 years.
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