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Alice Horton avoids jail after trying to smuggle refugees into UK

A refugee charity worker, who tried to smuggle a mother and two children into the UK in the boot of her car, has avoided going straight to prison.

Alice Horton, 25, was stopped by UK Border Officers in a rented Skoda Octavia at Coquelles in January this year returning from France.

Canterbury Crown Court was told that "her heart strings had been well and truly tugged".

Horton tried to bring a mother and children into the UK. Stock picture: SWNS.com
Horton tried to bring a mother and children into the UK. Stock picture: SWNS.com

Prosecutor Robert De Banzies said Horton would later claim she believed she was asked to take part because she had no criminal record and looked inconspicuous.

But she avoided an immediate jail sentence - after a judge accepted it had been done for "misguided but humanitarian reasons".

Horton had been told that the mother and children wanted to be reunited with the husband in the UK - although there was no evidence that this was true.

Judge Heather Norton told her that the operation had been planned and she was well aware it was illegal.

She added: “There is a considerable amount of naivety in how you have conducted yourself."

Horton told officials she was taking time off from her Holland and Barratt job and had visited Brussels and stayed overnight at a B&B after friends had told her how beautiful the city was.

“She was then asked to open the boot and pressed a button which resulted in the indicators flashing. She then said: “I am not sure how to open it can you help me?’

“The officer then pressed the boot button and it opened and could see legs and arms. Horton’s response was :’Yes but how did they get there?’, “ the prosecutor added.

Horton, from Spencer Gardens, Eltham, then admitted she had been to Bruges and wasn’t taking time away from Holland and Barrett but from her volunteer post at the Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network.

Horton then asked the official: “How did you know to pull me over? It’s amazing. You are really good at your job. What would I have done when I got to the UK.

Judge Heather Norton is presiding over the case
Judge Heather Norton is presiding over the case

‘ I am relieved you stopped me because they (the illegals) would have been in there (the boot) overnight’, “ he added.

Horton later claimed she had been approach by a “friend of a friend” who she refused to name.

She claimed she was asked to bring three illegal people into the UK, a 33-year-old Albanian woman and her sons aged 11 and 13 years after meeting them in a Dunkirk cafe.

Her lawyer Guy Wyatt told the judge: “Horton’s heart strings were well and truly tugged.

She was taken advantage of. She thought the right thing to do on humanitarian grounds was to help the family.

“Whether or not she was told a true story, one will never know.”

Horton was given a 14-month jail sentence suspended for a year and ordered to do 250 hours of unpaid work for the community.

She was also told to stay indoors between 9 pm and 6 am for the next six months and be electronically tagged.

The judge added: “I think it would be the wrong thing if I sent you to prison immediately. I have only ever suspended a sentence for this offence once before.”

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