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Man wants to be handed to UK ‘as soon as possible’ in lorry deaths case

The High Court in Dublin ruled that Ronan Hughes can be extradited to the UK to face charges in connection with the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants.

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Ronan Hughes (Essex Police/PA)

Ronan Hughes (Essex Police/PA)

Ronan Hughes (Essex Police/PA)

The High Court in Dublin heard a lorry driver wants to be surrendered to the UK “as soon as possible” to face charges in connection with the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants in England last October.

Ronan Hughes, 40, from Silverstream, Tyholland in Co Monaghan in the Republic of Ireland appeared at Dublin’s Central Criminal Court for his extradition hearing following the execution of a European arrest warrant in the Irish Republic in April.

A bail hearing in Dublin heard in April that Hughes was “the ringleader and organiser” of the people-smuggling plot.

On Friday, the High Court in Dublin ruled that Hughes can be extradited to the UK to face 39 charges of manslaughter and a charge of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration in connection with the deaths of 39 migrants found in a refrigerated lorry container in Essex.

Hughes said nothing during the short hearing in Dublin’s Central Criminal Court on Friday morning.

Mr Justice Paul Burns said the order for his surrender will go ahead on Monday June 15.

The court heard Hughes wants to be surrendered to face charges in the UK “as soon as possible”.

The manslaughter charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration carries a maximum penalty of 14 years.

The 39 Vietnamese nationals were found in a lorry container parked on an industrial estate in Grays on October 23 last year.

Ten teenagers, including two 15-year-old boys, were among those found dead.

It is alleged the migrants had been brought into the UK illegally by Hughes and his co-conspirators.

The court heard the migrants were smuggled in commercial trailers owned and operated by Hughes and that he organised and paid the drivers.

UK authorities say they died on UK territory while being transported from Belgium and have therefore claimed they have jurisdiction to prosecute.

Mr Justice Paul Burns said there was no ambiguity in the European Arrest Warrant and said, as the alleged offences occurred in the UK, it has jurisdiction to prosecute them.

The court heard the migrants died from a lack of oxygen between 8pm and 10pm after they had entered UK territorial waters.

Justice Burns said he was satisfied the offences of manslaughter and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration happened in the issuing state, the UK.

On April 8, Maurice Robinson, 25, of Craigavon in Northern Ireland, pleaded guilty to 39 counts of manslaughter at the Old Bailey in London.

He previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and acquiring criminal property at the same court on November 25.

He is due to be sentenced at a later date.

Hughes can appeal against the ruling to the Court Of Appeal and was remanded in custody for a further 15 days.

PA