Three men have been jailed for human trafficking after smuggling three Vietnamese teenagers and a young man into Britain from France, police said on Thursday.
The sentencing comes after 39 Vietnamese migrants – 31 males and eight females – were found dead in a refrigerated truck in Essex, east of London in October.
Hundreds of migrants try to enter Britain every year through the Channel.
Christian King and Henry Dunn, both 38, were given nine-year sentences by a judge at Snaresbrook Crown Court in east London, while James Davis, 31, was jailed for four-and-a-half years.
King, from Worcester Park in southwest London, denied conspiracy to facilitate unlawful entry into Britain but was found guilty at a trial.
Christian King and Henry Dunn, both 38, were given nine-year sentences by a judge at Snaresbrook Crown Court in east London
An undercover investigation in November 2017 tracked two of the smugglers as they crossed the Channel from the English south coast to a beach near Boulogne (pictured, a boat used to smuggle males into the UK)
Dunn, from Sevenoaks, southeast England, was found guilty of the same charge after a retrial, and of involvement in the activities of an organised crime network.
Davis, from New Malden, southwest London, pleaded guilty to both charges.
Detective Superintendent Neil Ballard, from London’s Metropolitan Police, said the convictions followed co-operation with British coastguard and customs, and their French counterparts.
‘The victims of this crime were young, vulnerable males who were trafficked through Europe to the beaches of France where they were put onto an inflatable boat.
The boat travelled to the coast of the United Kingdom in the cover of winter night, putting the vulnerable victims in an extremely frightening and dangerous situation.
James Davis, 31, of New Malden, was also charged with participating in the activities of an OCN. He pleaded guilty to both offences, including a charge of conspiracy to facilitate unlawful entry into the UK, at an earlier hearing. He was jailed for four years and six months
Her Honour Judge Lees told the court the lives of these young people were ruthlessly placed at jeopardy through the financial motivation of these three men.
‘It is down to the efforts of our officers, and close partnership working, that we were able to trace these individuals and stop them before they could bring any more harm.
‘The Met will continue to work with partners to combat human trafficking and modern slavery in order to safeguard those who are most vulnerable.
‘We will continue to target organised crime groups who seek to profit from these audacious acts and bring them to justice.’
An undercover investigation in November 2017 tracked two of the smugglers as they crossed the Channel from the English south coast to a beach near Boulogne.
Four Vietnamese males – aged 14, 15, 16 and 23 – were brought back and later detained by police on the motorway near the port of Folkestone.
The bodies of eight females and 31 males were discovered in the trailer attached to this Scania cab in an industrial park in Grays, Essex, early on October 23
The three teenage victims were placed into the care of social services.
The 23-year-old told officers he was trafficked against his will to France, where he was forced into servitude for several months before being taken to the French coast and put into the boat.
Davis and King were arrested and Dunn handed himself in to police several months later.
Police said the inflatable boat was poorly maintained, had no warning lights or emergency radio, making it ‘invisible’ to passing boats in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
Emergency flares were out of date and there were no life jackets on board, while modifications made to the vessel posed a risk of explosion, the force added in a statement.