Published: 06:00, 07 September 2019
| Updated: 12:04, 07 September 2019
A “fisherman” used his teenage son as a decoy to try and smuggle Iraqi migrants, including a four-year-old, into Kent.
Royce Keenan, 47, was jailed for five years for smuggling a man, woman and two children, inside a purpose built wooden box.
Keenan and his 14-year-old son were stopped in a van loaded with fishing gear at the Coquelles Eurotunnel terminal.
He told officer Amy Durham the pair were returning from a fishing trip in France.
However a search of the Ford unearthed a wooden box, which Keenan claimed was to help furnish the vehicle with a cooker, a court heard.
Inside was a four-year-old boy, 10-year-old girl, and a man and woman, both believed to be 31, according to court papers.
Judge Mark Weekes told Keenan his cynical ploy of using his son to help traffic humans was a “real aggravating factor”.
He said: “You were plainly aware of the Iraqi nationals in the van, there was clearly planning and forethought.
“I am satisfied it was constructed with the purpose of bringing illegal immigrants into the country.
“You were to be paid. I regard it as a real aggravating factor that you used your 14-year-old son as a distraction to the authorities.”
There were cries of “I love you” from his family as Keenan, who has 11 convictions for 29 offences, was led to the cells.
The jury took one hour 41 minutes to deliver its unanimous verdict.
During the three day trial Kerry Waite, defending, claimed Keenan was “simply not aware the migrants were inside his Ford.”
But prosecutor Edmund Fowler dubbed the claim “ ludicrous” and called the fishing trip a “cynical ploy” to cover up for the alleged crime.
He continued: “The very idea that these hapless individuals had just so happened on discovering a means to enter a van unnoticed, in an area several miles from a port, that just happened to have such a concealment within it, is quite ludicrous.
“The simple curtain between these individuals, including two young young children, also would indicate that no driver could remain unaware of the presence of others.
“This is particularly so given how far into France Soissons is located.”
Keenan, of Hilbre Road, Deeside, Cheshire was convicted of one charge of people smuggling after the incident on December 17 last year.