Burnley man jailed for helping smuggle 29 Vietnamese people into the UK

Four men who smuggled 29 Vietnamese people into Britain on a 42ft yacht before cramming them into the back of a van have been jailed.

Tuesday, 25th February 2020, 2:02 pm
Updated Tuesday, 25th February 2020, 2:25 pm

Glen Bennett (55), from Burnley, Frank Walling (72), from Colne, and Jon Ransom (63), from Kent, were sentenced to four and a half years in prison, police said.

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

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

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Frank Walling (72), from Colne, and Glen Bennett (55), from Burnley, have both been jailed for their part in the smuggling operation.

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

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

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.

Devon Police handout photo of the conditions on the 42ft yacht that carried 29 Vietnamese people into Britain.

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.

Two 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 at Truro Crown Court, said they were motivated by profit and "traded in human misery" with the victims "carted around like freight", police said.

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.

"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."

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 April 12.

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".