Four men jailed for smuggling 29 Vietnamese nationals into UK in back of van

Four men, right, have been jailed for smuggling Vietnamese nationals into the UK (Devon and Cornwall Police)

Four men have been jailed for smuggling 29 Vietnamese people into Britain in the back of a cramped van.

Women and children were among those taken into the UK from France on a 42ft yacht before being herded into the vehicle, said Devon and Cornwall Police.

Jon Ransom, 63, from Kent, Glen Bennett, 55, from Burnley, and Frank Walling, 72, from Colne, were sentenced at Truro Crown Court on Monday to four and a half years in prison, police said.

Keith Plummer, 63, was sentenced to three years and four months.

Devon and Cornwall Police were contacted on 12 April last year after several members of the public saw a group of people getting off a boat in Newlyn Harbour, Cornwall.

Members of the public contacted police after seeing a large group arriving at Newlyn Harbour in Cornwall (Devon and Cornwall Police)
Left to right: Frank Walling, 72, from Colne, Glen Bennett, 55, from Burnley, Keith Plummer, 63, and Jon Ransom, 63, from Kent, have been jailed for smuggling 29 Vietnamese people into Britain (PA)

They were then seen getting into the back of the van which had been parked in the harbour car park.

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CCTV footage was reviewed and the van, followed by another car, was stopped on the M5 near Cullompton, Devon.

The van door was opened and officers found 29 Vietnamese nationals inside, including women and children.

The 29 Vietnamese people on board the yacht had to share one toilet (PA)

They were taken to a multi-agency reception centre and referred to the Home Office and social care services to be managed, Devon and Cornwall Police said.

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Two of the men were arrested in Newlyn Harbour, and two more were held when the van and car were brought to a stop on the M5.

Judge Robert Linford, sentencing the four, said they were motivated by profit and "traded in human misery" with the victims "carted around like freight".

Speaking after the case, detective inspector Glenn Willcocks said: "The vessel was in a poor state, smelling strongly of diesel and cluttered with clothing and empty food wrappings.

Police stopped the van on the M5 motorway (Devon and Cornwall Police)

"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."

The men were convicted under section 25 of the Immigration Act - assisting unlawful immigration.

The conditions on the 42ft yacht that carried 29 Vietnamese people into Britain (PA)

It is believed that the 29 victims boarded the yacht, which was called the Johan Sebastian and owned by Walling, in Roscoff, France.

Walling and Bennett crewed the yacht, which came into Newlyn Harbour early on the morning of 12 April.

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Ann Hampshire, senior crown prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service, described the trip as "carefully planned".

She said it was a "well organised operation involving people and places in different parts of the UK, carefully co-ordinated to facilitate illegal entry into the UK".

Last October, the bodies of 39 Vietnamese nationals were found in the back of a lorry in Grays, Essex. Three people in the UK have been charged with manslaughter in connection with the case, including lorry driver Maurice Robinson, 25.

Last week, seven people in Vietnam were charged in connection with the deaths.

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