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Republic to extradite pair to UK over death of 39 migrants in lorry


Suspect: Ronan Hughes

Suspect: Ronan Hughes

Suspect: Ronan Hughes

Two Irish hauliers are to be extradited to the UK to face charges over the Essex container migrant deaths after separate court rulings in Dublin.

The High Court in Dublin ruled yesterday that Ronan Hughes (40) from Silverstream in Tyholland, Co Monaghan, can be extradited.

The court heard Hughes 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.

Later, the Court of Appeal dismissed a challenge by Eamonn Harrison (23) from Mayobridge, Co Down, against his extradition, which was ordered earlier this year.

He challenged the extradition after claiming there were "manifest errors" in the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) issued by UK authorities.

In a judgment published online yesterday, Ms Justice Donnelly dismissed the appeal, insisting that the warrant contained sufficient information and the UK authorities had met all the conditions required.

The 39 Vietnamese nationals were found in a lorry container parked on an industrial estate in Grays, Essex, on October 23. Ten teenagers, including two 15-year-old boys, were among them.

Hughes appeared in court for his extradition hearing yesterday following the execution of an EAW in the Irish Republic in April.

A previous bail hearing in Dublin in April heard that he was "the ringleader and organiser" of a people-smuggling plot.

Yesterday 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 the migrants.

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

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

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 the migrants died on UK territory while being transported from Belgium, so they have jurisdiction to prosecute.

In a bid to fight his extradition Hughes's lawyers argued it was unclear where the Vietnamese nationals died and where the alleged offences were said to have occurred.

Justice Burns said there was no ambiguity in the EAW and, as the alleged offences occurred in the UK, it has jurisdiction to prosecute them.

In his ruling Justice Burns said the vessel the migrants were on entered UK territorial waters at around 7pm on October 23 and the migrants died from a lack of oxygen between 8pm and 10pm.

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

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

The UK Crown Prosecution Service is seeking to prosecute Harrison for 39 counts of manslaughter and one of assisting unlawful immigration.

The 23-year-old, who was arrested at Dublin Port days after the discovery in England, is alleged to have driven the container to the port of Zeebrugge in Belgium and later signed the shipping notice for it.

He had attempted to appeal against his extradition. That bid was dismissed yesterday.

Harrison, who has been remanded in custody, has the option to appeal to Ireland's Supreme Court.

On April 8 Maurice Robinson (25) of Laurelvale, Co Armagh, 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 on November 25.

He will be sentenced at a later date.

Belfast Telegraph