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CPS publishes updated guidance for handling of illegal entry cases via small boats

|News, International and organised crime

Prosecutors and law enforcement agencies have agreed a consistent approach to the handling of cases involving illegal entry to the UK via small boats and lorries.

The updated CPS organised facilitation legal guidance, published today, sets out the circumstances when criminal charges may be considered for those bringing migrants to the UK while posing a risk to their lives.

It confirms that individuals who have played a significant role in people-smuggling - including those who organise and pilot dangerous boat crossings across the English Channel - can expect to face prosecution where this is supported by the evidence.

However, recognising migrants and asylum seekers often have no choice in how they travel and face exploitation by organised crime groups (OCGs), prosecutors are also asked to consider the published public interest factors in charging those merely entering illegally.

The guidance therefore advises that passengers of boats and other vehicles should not be prosecuted unless they are repeat offenders or have previously been deported - and should instead be with dealt with by administrative removal channels.

The approach was agreed following close consultation between the CPS, Home Office (Immigration Enforcement and Border Force), the National Crime Agency and policing.

Frank Ferguson, CPS immigration crime lead, said: “We are confident the approach we have agreed today strikes a proportionate balance between deterring criminal gangs from attempting dangerous crossings and acting in the interests of justice and compassion.

“It is right that those who exploit and profit from the desperation of others - or put lives at risk through controlling or driving overcrowded small boats or confined lorries - are considered for prosecution.

“But we also have a duty to consider the public interest in prosecuting passengers, who often have no choice about their method of travel, for offences that can usually be better dealt with by removal.”

Key changes in the guidance include updated sections on:

Vehicles/small boats and larger vessels. This sets out the charges that should be considered for drivers/pilots and the evidential requirements needed to prosecute. This would include migrants who have agreed to assist in steering the boat in exchange for passage and evidence showing one person in control throughout.

Passengers. The guidance clarifies that the approach to passengers of vehicles and small and large boats should be the same, stating: “it is unlikely that those who are simply occupants would be prosecuted”, adding that the “focus for prosecutions should be on those with more significant roles, i.e. those that facilitate the entry”. Furthermore, if passengers are intercepted or rescued at sea it is unlikely that any offence of illegal entry has been committed in law.

Prosecution strategy/international enquiries. Prosecutors and investigators will work together from the outset of a case, providing early investigative advice to build cases, and develop a prosecution strategy, particularly over who should be treated as a victim, witness or suspect. In addition, international enquiries should be considered in all cases from an early stage in order to establish links between the UK suspects and overseas facilitators.

Notes to editors

Frank Ferguson is the Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS East of England and the Immigration Crime Lead
The Immigration: Organised Facilitation legal guidance is published on this website.

Further reading

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