Two men have been jailed after attempting to smuggle 13 Albanian men and one child into the UK across the Channel in a small motor boat.
Jonathan Bridgeman, 42, the owner of the boat, was handed a sentence of two-and-a-half-years at Lewes crown court for assisting unlawful immigration into the UK. His accomplice, Albanian-born Deshan Laci, 35, was given three years for the same sentence, the Guardian has reported.
The court heard how the two men left Brighton Marina on the night of 15 November 2014 and headed to Dieppe, across the Channel. They stayed at the French port for a few hours before making the return journey at about midnight.
However, their vessel, named Sea Paz, ran into difficulties outside the entrance to Sovereign Harbour, Eastbourne, a few miles along the coast from Brighton.
The boat was towed to safety by the harbour master whereupon the migrants attempted to abscond, but they and Bridgeman were apprehended by Harbour staff. Laci was able to evade capture.
Laci was later found to be the owner of a car wash in Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex, where immigration officers found a man working illegally during a raid on 15 February 2015.
Both Bridgeman and Laci admitted the charges at separate hearings at Lewes crown court last year.
Twelve of the migrants they tried to smuggle in have since been deported, while the thirteenth has an asylum application pending. The child was handed over to East Sussex social services.
The former car wash employee was also deported, and the business served with a civil penalty.
Assistant director Dave Fairclough, from the immigration enforcement criminal investigations team, said: “These convictions show how different agencies are working together effectively to secure our borders.
“It is thanks to the prompt action of the harbour staff, the swift response of the police and the thorough investigation subsequently conducted by my immigration enforcement officers that Bridgeman and Laci have been brought to justice.”