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Gillingham couple tried to smuggle 12 Vietnamese migrants hidden in tyres through Channel Tunnel

PUBLISHED: 13:28 11 September 2017 | UPDATED: 13:31 11 September 2017

Katy Bethel

Katy Bethel

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Kathy Bethel and Aaron Harris were jailed at Maidstone Crown Court on Monday

Aaron Harris Aaron Harris

A couple from Gillingham who tried to smuggle a dozen illegal immigrants hidden in tyres into Kent via the Channel Tunnel have been jailed for more than seven years.

On July 4, 2015, Katy Bethel and Aaron Harris were stopped by Border Force in a van at the UK Control Zone in Coquelles, France.

Harris, 28, was driving the vehicle and Bethel, also 28, was his passenger. When Border Force officers searched the couple’s borrowed Sprinter van they found 12 Vietnamese nationals - four men, five women and three children - hidden among a load of tyres packed into the rear.

Harris and Bethel, both of Dial Road, Gillingham, were arrested on suspicion of assisting unlawful immigration into the UK and the investigation was passed to Immigration Enforcement’s Criminal and Financial Investigation (CFI) team.

The Vietnamese nationals found in the van were handed to the French authorities.

Harris pleaded guilty on January 30 at Canterbury Crown Court and Bethel was found guilty by a jury at Maidstone Crown Court on August 8.

Harris was jailed for five years and Bethel for two years and nine months at Maidstone Crown Court on Monday.

Assistant director David Fairclough, from the CFI team, said: “As these sentences demonstrate, abusing immigration laws and gambling with people’s safety are taken very seriously by the courts.

“Anyone thinking of doing the same should take this case as a warning.

“Working with our colleagues in Border Force we will catch you and ensure that justice is served.”

Anyone with information about suspected immigration abuse can contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 anonymously or visit http://www.crimestoppers-uk.org.

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