Gang imprisoned for a total of 17 years

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From Devon & Cornwall Police:

Four men who treated a group of Vietnamese people like ‘cattle’ have been jailed for a total of 17 years. (Doesn’t feel like enough to me, and cattle should not be treated like that either.)

The men were all sentenced at Truro Crown Court on Monday 24 February, for their part in smuggling 29 Vietnamese immigrants into Britain via a 42ft yacht before being crammed into the back of a van.

Following a trial at Truro Crown Court, Jon Ransom, aged 63, from Kent, Glen Bennett, aged 55, from Burnley and Frank Walling, aged 72, from Colne, were found guilty and were each sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison.

All three men pleaded guilty prior to the trial to Section 25 of the Immigration Act – assisting unlawful immigration to a member state.

Keith Plummer, aged 63, from Sheerness was sentenced to three years and four months in prison.

On Friday 12 April 2019, police were contacted after several members of the public had witnessed a group of people get off a boat at Newlyn Harbour in Cornwall before getting into the back of a transit van which was parked in the harbour car park.

CCTV was reviewed and the van, followed by another car, was identified heading for the M5, with assistance from the police helicopter. The van and following car were stopped by officers on the M5 near Cullompton.

Once in a safe location, the van door was opened and the Police located 29 Vietnamese nationals inside the back of the van, including women and children. All 29 were illegal immigrants with little if any, understanding of English.

The immigrants were taken to a specially created multi-agency reception centre and referred to the Home Office and Social Care to be managed and cared for.

Two men were arrested in Newlyn Harbour and the other two were arrested where the box van and following car were brought to a stop on the M5.

Sentencing, Judge Robert Linford said the foursome were motivated by profit and “traded in human misery”.

He said the 29 victims had been “carted around like freight”.

DI Glenn Willcocks said: “We welcome today’s sentencing and hope it serves as a reminder that people are not commodities to be handled like cattle with total disregard for their health and safety.

“The vessel was in a poor state, smelling strongly of diesel and cluttered with clothing and empty food wrappings. The boat would have been extremely cramped with all 29 people having to share a single toilet.

“The four convicted today risked the lives of 29 men, women and children without any appreciation of the danger of their circumstances. They were motivated only by monetary reward and thankfully no one paid the ultimate price.

“We believe the group boarded the yacht called The Johan Sebastian owned by Frank Walling, in Roscoff, France.

“Once the 29 had boarded the yacht, Walling and Bennett crewed the yacht which later came into Newlyn Harbour early on the morning of 12th April. All 29 people disembarked from the yacht and hurried across the harbour into the back of a waiting van witnessed by members of the public who alerted police.

“The police team has worked tirelessly and spent weeks on extensive CCTV and telephone analysis which allowed detectives to sequence the movements and contacts between each defendant.

“This is also an example of the continued co-operation between Devon and Cornwall Police, The Crown Prosecution Service and The National Crime Agency and partner agencies who set up and manned the reception centre.”

Ann Hampshire, the Senior Crown Prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “These four men were involved in a carefully planned trip to bring 29 Vietnamese individuals to the UK illegally.

“It was important for the Prosecution that while there was no direct contact between the two males from the yacht and the two from Kent, they all managed to coordinate their arrival in Newlyn to unload and transport the 29. This clearly demonstrated that this was a well-organised operation involving people and places in different parts of the UK, carefully coordinated to facilitate illegal entry into the UK.

“The investigation involved a significant multi-agency operation to detain and process the 29 at the same time as dealing with the four suspects and gathering evidence against them. It was, however, the suspicions of the public and their early contact with the police that enabled the Police to detain the four suspects and recover the 29 Vietnamese individuals. Such public action is crucial in assisting the Police in cases like this.”

Nick Davies, from the Wales and West Immigration Enforcement CFI team, said: “We work closely with law enforcement colleagues such as Devon and Cornwall Police to rigorously pursue people smugglers.

“This was a despicable case, where the perpetrators clearly had no regard for the well-being or dignity of the people they were smuggling.

“I hope these sentences send a clear message to anyone tempted to get involved in the heinous crime of people smuggling – you will be caught and you will face the consequences.”

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