Kent Duo Jailed Over People Smuggling

A judge has told the men responsible for trying to smuggle 18 Albanian immigrants into Kent that "a tragedy was averted by a whisker."

33 year old Robert Stilwell- a former European judo champion from Farningham- and 35 year old Mark Stribling from Greenhithe, have each been jailed for more than 4 years.

The pair admitted breaching immigration law at Maidstone Crown Court today- by illegally trying get 18 migrants into the country.

They were rescued off of the coast of Dymchurch in May when their inflatable boat lost power and started taking on water.

Stilwell and Stirling were each paid £2,000 to make the journey to the south of Calais and back.

They had to be rescued by the Coastguard and the crew of HMC Valiant after the boat lost power one and a half miles (2.4km) from shore.

Stribling, of Hilltop Farm, Farningham, near Swanley in Kent, was jailed for 4 years and 8 months and Stilwell, of Stanley Close, Greenhithe, was sentenced to 4 years and 4 months in prison.

Stilwell appeared stunned by the sentence and mouthed ``Tell them I love them'' as he was sent down, while Stribling smirked.

In sentencing, Judge Jeremy Carey said:

``This case shows the best and the worst of human characteristics.

``On the part of the rescue services, a real and conspicuous devotion to duty and at considerable risk to themselves.

``On your part, greed, recklessness and deceit and the desire to get easy money.

``In the event, there was a rescue and those who were rescued should be very grateful, as you should be to those who came to your aid.

``A tragedy was averted by a whisker.''