Two jailed for people smuggling conspiracy
Two people have been jailed for their roles in conspiring to smuggle eight Albanian migrants into the UK in a small boat following an investigation by the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit (SW ROCU).
James Wisbey, 55, formerly of West Hoe, Plymouth, was the skipper of the yacht, which got stranded off the coast by Horse Cove near Teignmouth, Devon, last December. He was sentenced at Exeter Crown Court on 6 July to five years and four months in prison having pleaded guilty to conspiracy to breach the Immigration Act.
Crewwoman Faye Miles, 38, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to the same offence and was sentenced to two years.
A third person, Indrit Barhani, 32, an Albanian national of no fixed address, was arrested in London in February and has also pleaded guilty to the same offence. He will be sentenced at a later date.
The seven men and one woman smuggled to the UK via France told officers how the original £2,000 fee increased to £5,000 then £20,000 once on board. They described the fear they felt while sailing for more than 24 hours in a cramped, dark space below deck without food or water and in treacherous conditions.
One man on board also described how the boat twice broke down and was leaking oil, adding to his fear that they would not make it to land.
Detective Inspector Adrian Hawkins, who led the investigation for the SW ROCU, said: “After being arrested Wisbey, who had tried but failed to make a similar people smuggling trip earlier in the year, even joked to Miles that ‘next time, I’ll do it properly and not take any shortcuts’. Hopefully our investigation will ensure there won’t be a next time.
“As the yacht’s skipper, he would have been well aware of the dangers of making that crossing in his small boat, particularly under the cover of darkness, in the middle of winter and in such rough conditions. There were no lifejackets and minimal safety equipment on board his boat.
“Ultimately, he and Miles prioritised the opportunity to make money over the safety of the people they smuggled on board. He was essentially a smuggler for hire and the migrants were nothing more than a money making commodity to them.
“The guilty pleas and sentences handed down reflect the standard of investigation carried out by our team, closely supported by the CPS, Devon and Cornwall Police and the NCA. Border Force played a critical role in ensuring the lives of those on board were protected and everyone was safely detained.”
James Le Grys, Crown Advocate from the CPS South West Complex Casework Unit, said: “James Wisbey planned to profit significantly from people smuggling. His dangerous actions, with the assistance of Faye Miles, caused significant fear to those on board, which could have ended in tragedy and the loss of life.
“We worked closely with the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit and international partners to ensure that action was taken swiftly and sufficient evidence was gathered to build a strong case.
“These criminals put the lives of others at risk to make profit, something that has been reflected by the prison sentences imposed.
“We are committed to bringing those involved in organised immigration crime to justice.”