Published: 12:08, 10 September 2020
| Updated: 13:28, 10 September 2020
A warning against taking boats that have been used by migrants to cross the channel has been issued by the Coastguard.
It follows a number of thefts in recent days from beaches around Dover and Deal and three men have been charged after an abandoned rigid hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) was taken from a beach in the district.
A poster, placed by the coastguard on an inflatable found at Kingsdown yesterday said: "This vessel is part of ongoing search and rescue operations along with criminal investigations.
"It is not lost of abandoned and as such no claim of ownership can be made on this craft or its contents.
"The unauthorised removal of this vessel or its contents is considered theft."
A Kent Police spokesman confirmed there have been numerous incidences of boats or their parts being taken.
He said: "Kent Police assisted Border Force following a report of suspected migrants seen near Undercliff Road, Kingsdown, at 9.50am on Monday, September 7.
While in attendance, further inquiries were carried out following a report that part of a boat the suspected migrants had arrived on had been taken without permission.
A man was located and returned the part following engagement and words of advice from officers, and it was therefore not deemed necessary or proportionate to make an arrest.
The part has since been passed on to Border Force.
Det Sgt Dan Barker of Kent Police warned others from doing the same: "Members of the public who remove abandoned boats or their parts from beaches risk committing a criminal offence, even if the legal owner cannot immediately be identified.
"Furthermore, such vessels can also form important evidence for investigations into those who facilitate illegal entry into the UK and should therefore be reported to Border Force upon their discovery.
"Kent Police officers have made a number of arrests for this type of offending in recent days, including three men who have since been charged with taking a rigid-hull inflatable boat without the consent of the owner or other lawful authority, contrary to Section 12(1) of the Theft Act 1968."
No figures have been provided confirming how many boats have been taken unlawfully.
The Home Office and HM Coastguard has been asked to comment.
It comes after MP for Dover and Deal Natalie Elphicke called for the vessels to be put to good use once the criminal process surrounding each vessel has ended.
Mrs Elphicke said: “I fully appreciate the strength of feeling about the continued small boats crossings, especially where there are landings on beaches and near homes.
"It is an unacceptable position. I am working hard on this, and the government has outlined a number of steps that it is taking to tackle this issue.
“I would urge people not to take abandoned and discarded migrant dinghies or engines from our local beaches. I have written to the Home Office encouraging them to look at the possible re-use of dinghies and engines for charity and rescue training, in line with a number of sensible suggestions I have received.”
On Friday, September 4, 2020, officers from Kent Police arrested 29-year-old Stephen Laws, 41-year-old James Cook and 55-year-old Anthony Williams following the reported theft of a boat in Dover.
Mr Laws, of Victoria Grove, Folkestone, Mr Cook, of Citadel Road, Dover, and Mr Williams, of Guston Road, Dover, were later charged with taking a conveyance without consent, in relation to a rigid hull inflatable boat, on Wednesday, September 2.
All three were bailed to attend Folkestone Magistrates' Court on Friday, November 6.