Priti Patel to Introduce Life Sentences for People Smugglers: Report

Britain's Home Secretary Priti Patel speaks during a media briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic in Downing Street, London, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, pool)
AP Photo/Matt Dunham, poo

Home Secretary Priti Patel is reportedly set to announce that people smugglers will face life sentences, in the latest attempt to deal with the ongoing Channel migrant crisis.

Under current law, people smugglers only face a maximum sentence of fourteen years. However, as with most criminals jailed in the UK, they are unlikely to serve their full term, with most typically serving less than five years behind bars.

Patel is looking to increase the penalty to a maximum sentence of life, which would prohibit the smugglers from being able to qualify for automatic early release, according to The Times.

The move, which is expected to be introduced legislatively later this year, would primarily target low-end traffickers, including those who actually steer the migrant boats.

A Home Office source told the paper: “At the moment the 14-year maximum sentence does constrain obviously what judges can do because that narrows the range of sentences available.

“We’re not naive enough to imagine that every trial judge is going to be handing down a life sentence for anyone who’s convicted of people smuggling but by having that option available then hopefully we’ll see [life sentences] used in the worst cases, and then in other cases we will start seeing the 12, 15, 20-year sentences that these people aren’t getting at the moment.

“We need the starting point for all of these serious sentences to be much higher and that means the top end has to be at the very highest and that means a life sentence.”

The upcoming legislation will also focus on preventing migrants from filing last-minute asylum claims after they have already been rejected. Last year, little over one hundred failed asylum seekers who crossed the Channel by boat or tunnel were returned back to Europe.

There is some question as to the effectiveness of increased sentencing guidelines will have in stopping the flow of illegal migrants, with a government source saying: “It’s all very well having very stiff sentences but detection is the big problem. A lot of people who work on people smuggling are obviously not in the UK.”

Brexit leader Nigel Farage also expressed cynicism over the move, writing: “More tough talk but this will not stem the flow. The invasion this year will be even bigger than 2020.”

The report from The Times also revealed the demographics of the migrants who illegally landed in the UK by boat last year. Iranians made up the largest block, representing 14 per cent, followed by Albanians with ten per cent, Eritreans at 8 per cent, and Iraqis at 7 per cent.

The rest of the main nationalities included: “Sudanese (7 per cent), Syrian (5 per cent), Afghan (4.5 per cent), Pakistani (4.1 per cent) and Vietnamese (3.2 per cent).”

On Monday, the British tabloid The Sun claimed to have witnessed a French warship escorting a boat full of migrants into British territorial waters, backing up reporting of the same from Brexit leader Nigel Farage.

The paper claimed that the French naval vessel “turned back when it was well inside UK waters,” adding that the British Border Force picked up the migrants after the rubber dingy ran out of fuel. Breitbart London has previously reported on similar excursions by French government ships.

A source told the tabloid that people smugglers are intentionally sending off boats from the French coast with just enough fuel to reach British territorial waters in order to force a rescue.

“The people traffickers, hellbent on making as much profit as possible, are only filling up the petrol tanks halfway,” the source said, adding: “This is ruthless.”

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

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