Pair jailed for smuggling Albanians into UK via Suffolk coast

Boats at the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club. Picture: Thomas Chapman

Boats at the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club, where James Hall-Brunton and Carsten Lienan brought eight Albanian nationals ashore with insufficient lifejackets  - Credit: Archant

Two men have been jailed for attempting to smuggle a boatload of Albanian nationals into the UK via the Suffolk coast.

James Hall-Brunton, 49, and Carsten Lienan, 51, appeared for sentencing at Ipswich Crown Court on Thursday afternoon.

The pair previously admitted assisting unlawful immigration into the UK.

Prosecutor Lynne Shirley said immigration officials boarded a yacht, skippered by Hall-Brunton and crewed by Lienan, after it docked at the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club, in Lowestoft, on April 15.

Also found on board were eight male Albanian nationals and a total of just four lifejackets.

She said Hall-Brunton and Lienan initially claimed to have been sailing from Cowes, but later admitted starting their journey at Den Oever, in Holland.

The court heard how Hall-Brunton, formerly of Middlesex but more recently of Paderborn, Germany, paid 4,750 Euros towards chartering a suitable boat and stood to make 15,000 Euros as a result of the operation.

Most Read

Evidence suggested he made three previous reconnaissance journeys to the marina – accompanied by Lienan on one occasion last autumn – and had also considered using Pin Mill, on the Shotley peninsula, as another possible entry point.

Rob Pollington, representing Hall-Brunton, said his client had gained an enhanced level of privilege during his time on remand at Norwich prison and accepted full responsibility for his actions.

He said Hall-Brunton had been staying on a houseboat in The Netherlands following an offer of work with the Red Cross, but was suddenly left without income as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, with no way of funding a return to his partner and child in Paderborn. 

Ian James, for Lienan, a German citizen of no fixed address, said his client considered himself a man of "some mental frailty", who claimed to have been recruited at a time of difficult personal circumstance.

The court heard how the pair met in German prison in 2018, while Hall-Brunton was serving a sentence for fraud and Lienan was serving nine years for drug smuggling.

Judge Emma Peters said it was reasonable to infer that both men were set to profit from the "miserable trade" in people smuggling.

Hall-Brunton and Lienan were each sentenced to 45 months' custody.

Andrew Gravestock, from the Home Office Criminal and Financial Investigations team, said: “The public and organised crime groups should be in no doubt of our determination to clamp down on illegal migration, from which criminals profit whilst putting at great risk the lives at those they traffic.  

“These individuals thought they could use deceptive methods to smuggle people into the country.

“They have now been brought to justice and can no longer profit off the exploitation of others.”  

“I would like to thank publicly our Law Enforcement colleagues in the Netherlands and Germany with whom we worked collaboratively to achieve a successful outcome.”