Caroline Knight, prosecuted people smuggler Peter Martin, who was recently sentenced to 5 and a half years in prison. Read the Home Office's press release on the case:
A people smuggler from Essex who went on the run in an attempt to avoid trial has been jailed for five years and six months.
Peter Martin, whose last known address was Peter Bruff Avenue, Clacton, had been arrested by Border Force officers at the Channel Tunnel entrance in Coquelles on 20 October, 2016, after they found 11 Albanian nationals hidden in the back of his hired Ford Transit Panel-Van. The Albanians – 10 men and one woman – were passed to the French Police Aux Frontieres.
Nick Drinkal, Director of Border Force South East and Europe, said:
“Before the van was opened Martin told Border Force officers that he had been to France to buy beer for a party, but when the doors were unlocked officers found the majority of the space was taken up with people rather than alcohol.
“We will not rest or stand back from our shared commitments in conjunction with our UK and French law enforcement partners to ensure that people smugglers and traffickers, whose actions so often put the lives of others at risk, face the full consequences of their crimes.”
The case was passed to Immigration Enforcement’s Criminal and Financial Investigation (CFI) team and Martin was ultimately charged with assisting unlawful immigration into the UK and released on court granted bail.
On 3 May, 2017, he appeared for a pre-trial hearing at Canterbury Crown Court, but shortly afterwards stopped complying with his bail conditions. On 14 August, 2017, a bench warrant was issued for his arrest and on 27 March this year he was arrested by police at an address in Ipswich.
Martin, 51, pleaded not guilty when he was produced for the start of his trial at Canterbury Crown Court on 29 July.
He admitted attempting to smuggle the people into the UK, but claimed to be acting under duress, stating that he was being threatened by a group of Albanians. He claimed the unidentified gang had threatened to kill him and his immediate family if he did not collect the people from France and bring them to the UK.
The jury were not convinced and on Friday, 2 August 2019, took less than an hour to find Martin guilty. He reappeared at court on 5 August for sentencing.
Assistant Director David Fairclough, from CFI, said:
“Martin thought he could escape justice, but this case demonstrates that law enforcement’s reach is wide and its memory is long. Ultimately, there is no hiding place.
“This was an unsophisticated attempt to smuggle people into the UK illegally. Martin knew what he was doing was wrong and contrary to his claims, was not acting under duress.
“I hope Martin’s imprisonment sends a clear message that anyone who engages in this kind of criminality will be caught and brought before the courts.”