A Co Armagh lorry driver who pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of 39 Vietnamese migrants has been sentenced to 13 years and four months in prison.
Maurice Robinson, 26, from Laurelvale (main image), was handed the sentence at the Old Bailey courthouse in London this afternoon (Friday).
Robinson, who picked up the fatal trailer from Purfleet docks in Essex on October 23, 2019, discovered the lifeless bodies of the 39 tragic migrants.
The Old Bailey heard how he had been paid £25,000 for picking up migrants from Belgium on a previous occasion – £1,000 for each migrant.
At a sentencing hearing earlier this month, the court heard how Robinson – who also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and acquiring criminal property – was “horrified by what he saw” that fateful day.
In passing sentence, Mr Justice Sweeney said the defendants, which included Co Armagh man Christopher Kennedy and Ronan Hughes, participated in a sophisticated, long-running and profitable conspiracy to smuggle mainly Vietnamese people across the Channel from May 2018 to October 2019.
He also described the migrants’ deaths as “excruciating”.
He added: “There is nothing I can say or do which would reflect the entirety of their lives, or reflect the loss to their families” but he expressed his “sincere condolences” to the relatives of the 39 victims.
In his sentencing remarks, the judge referred to haulier Hughes as playing a “leading role” in the conspiracy. The court heard how the 41-year-old had a previous conviction for smuggling six million cigarettes.
In addressing truck driver Eamonn Harrison, from Mayobridge, the judge said there is no doubt he “lied” during his trial. His defence team said the Co Down man was “immature” and a borderline alcoholic.
Justice Sweeney said people trafficking “undermines the UK government’s attempts to restrict and control immigration” which “was a concern to the general public”.
The sentences were as follows:
Ronan Hughes was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Maurice Robinson jailed for 13 years and 4 months.
Gheorghe Nica was jailed for 27 years.
Eamonn Harrison sentenced to 18 years in prison.
Christopher Kennedy sentenced to 7 years in prison.
Alexandru Hanga was jailed for three years.
Valentin Calota was jailed four-and-a-half years.