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5 August 2015, 05:53
An Essex coach driver says he's just one of thousands who've been fined for having stowaways hiding in his vehicle - despite not knowing they were there.
Coach driver Lawrence Bourne is among thousands of people who have been fined after stowaways were found hidden on his vehicle.
Mr Bourne, co-owner of L and R Transport Services in Wickford, Essex, was returning through Calais in October last year when his coach was mobbed at a zebra crossing about five minutes away from the ferry terminal.
When he arrived at the terminal, he found two men had forced open the coach's boot with a crowbar and were hiding inside.
He immediately alerted the authorities and thought that was an end to the matter. Eight months later he received a #2,000 Home Office fine in the post.
He said: ``I understand there may be people who try to exploit the system, but most of us are just drivers trying to do our jobs as best we can so their must be some common sense.
``There have been people threatened with guns and knives. If the Border Agency can't police it, how are we supposed to?
``We will do everything physically possible to prevent this but they say we have to check our vehicles but who wants to stop and carry out checks in that kind of environment when they're just making themselves more vulnerable?
``I now won't stop anywhere in the vicinity of Calais because it's just not worth it.''
Mr Bourne added that the incident was not an isolated one. During a recent school trip to Calais, his business partner's coach had stopped for just 30 seconds when a man was spotted climbing underneath it.
``We now have to think very carefully about what work we take on,'' he added.
``It's getting impossible for us to do our jobs and protect our passengers properly in that area so we need more help.''
Mr Bourne wrote to the Home Office to appeal against the fine but this was rejected.
He said the fine was ``unjust'' but saw little point challenging it in the county court.
He added: ``We can't believe there's a judge that's going to rule against the British Government.''