Calais crisis: what the law says if stowaways are found on your vehicles

But drivers’ safety is not the only risk to haulage businesses says John Davies, a solicitor at Manchester law firm Irwin Mitchell.

There is the potential for civil penalties and criminal sanctions if a truck is discovered with stowaways on board and The Transport Law Blog thinks that all international operators would welcome a reminder of what's at stake.

A recent Commercial Motor article by DWF lawyer Joanne Witheford explained what steps operators and drivers should take to protect their vehicles (CM 9 July). But, should these steps fail, what exactly does the law on the carrying of stowaways say and what sanctions could hauliers be subject to?

Hauliers and drivers could receive a fine if migrants are found in their truck, and it so far appears that this is the most common sanction being handed out by the authorities. Section 32 of the Immigration & Asylum Act 1999 states that the owner, hirer and driver of a vehicle are all liable if found with a clandestine entrant on board, with a penalty of up to £2,000 for each person found, with a maximum fine of £4,000.

Should such a fine be issued, the operator has up to 28 days to appeal to UK Border Force’s Civil Penalty Central Administration Unit. If there is no appeal, then fine will have to be paid within 60 days.

“If the UK Borders Agency is concerned that the penalty will not be paid within the specified time or if there is an outstanding penalty, they can detain vehicles. The consequences of this could be catastrophic for the haulier concerned,” warns Davies.

While fines are inconvenient for an operator, criminal sanctions can be detrimental to business. Davies warns that these can arise if the operator or driver “knows, or has reasonable cause for believing” clandestine entrants are in a vehicle and fails to act on it.

Under section 25A of the Immigration Act 1971 it is an offence to help people enter the UK illegally for gain, and there is also a separate offence of assisting someone’s entry into the UK in breach of a deportation or exclusion order.

The maximum offence under Section 25 is 14 years’ imprisonment and offenders could see their vehicles and other assets taken away. Drivers could also be stripped of their licence entitlement.

Obstructing Border Force officials from checking vehicles or documentation is also a criminal offence, so Davies encourages all drivers passing through the port to cooperate.

He says: “The UK haulage industry faces enough challenges already and this is yet another unwelcome development that has been developing into the present nightmare for several years.

“Hauliers and drivers must remain vigilant and apply their systems and codes of practice concerning vehicle and load checks diligently.”


With more strike action at the port earlier this week, it doesn't look like the Calais migrant crisis will be disappearing any time soon.

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