Two men have been sentenced to a total of nine years for conspiring to bring 18 Albanians illegally into the UK.
Robert Stilwell and Mark Stribling had both pleaded guilty to conspiring to assist illegal immigration at a previous hearing at Maidstone Crown Court. Stilwell was sentenced to four years and four months, while Stribling was sentenced to four years and eight months.
To bring the migrants ashore safely, local lifeboats had to be launched in the early hours of 29 May 2016, supported by Border Force Cutter Valiant and a search and rescue helicopter. The defendants had originally claimed they had rescued the group on their rigid hulled inflatable boat. The rescue took around one and a half hours in difficult conditions, with a mid to rough sea swell and moderate to poor visibility. One woman needed medical treatment, after showing signs of hypothermia.
Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS South East Kris Venkatasami said:
“This was an appalling case where the two defendants tried to bring this group of vulnerable migrants into the UK ashore illegally. Those on the boat had paid 6,000 Euros each to make the trip, which nearly cost them their lives. Not long after leaving France, the battery appears to have failed on the boat and water started flooding in, leaving those on board to frantically try to bail it out as fast as they could.
“Had it not been for the Border Force Cutter Valiant and the local lifeboats, we may well have seen a tragedy just off the British coastline, especially as the only people in the boat wearing life jackets were the defendants. They had deliberately planned to illegally bring people into the UK for their own financial gain and wilfully put the lives of those people at risk.”