A Northern Irish man is facing multiple counts of manslaughter after UK authorities alleged that he delivered a trailer, in which 39 migrants were found dead last week, to Zeebrugge Port in Belgium before its onward journey to England.
Eamon Harrison (22), from Mayobridge, Co Down, appeared before Mr Justice Donald Binchy in the High Court on Friday. The court heard he was arrested in the holdings cells of the Criminal Courts of Justice on Parkgate Street in Dublin at 10.15am on Friday following the endorsement of a European Arrest Warrant.
Sgt Jim Kirwan told the court there are 41 offences in the warrant including 39 manslaughter charges, one of conspiracy to commit human trafficking under section 2 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and one of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration under section 25 of the Immigration Act 1971.
Sgt Kirwan said he asked Mr Harrison “if he knew what this was about” and that he replied ‘yes’.
“The case against Eamon Harrison relates to the trafficking and subsequent deaths of 39 people within an artic trailer unit,” Sgt Kirwan said, reading from the warrant.
“At 1.38am on Wednesday, 23rd of October 2019, Essex Police received a call from the East of England Ambulance Service stating they were getting reports of 25 illegal immigrants not breathing within a lorry in the area of Eastern Avenue, Waterglade Industrial, West Thurrock, Essex.
“Police attended the scene. The driver of the lorry was standing at the back of the trailer. He was later identified as Maurice Robinson.
“Inside the trailer was a total of 39 people, eight females and 31 males who were all deceased.
“Enquiries revealed that the trailer unit had been delivered by a lorry to Zeebrugge, Belgium before being transported to the UK where it was collected by Maurice Robinson from the Port of Purfleet, Essex.
“On 22nd of October 2019, Eamon Harrison had been identified as the driver of the lorry which was used to deliver the trailer unit to the port in Zeebrugge.”
He continued: “A shipping notice provided at Zeebrugge when the tractor unit arrived at the gate was signed in the name ‘Eamonn Harrison’.
“Eamon Harrison travelled back to Ireland in the lorry via a ferry from Cherbourg, France.”
After Sgt Kirwan gave evidence of Mr Harrison’s arrest, Mr Justice Binchy said he was satisfied that the man in court was the same Mr Harrison mentioned in the warrant.
Elva Duffy BL, for the State, told the judge that Mr Harrison was on remand in custody over a domestic matter that will be before Cloverhill District Court next Thursday.
Tony McGillicuddy BL, instructed by Paul Tiernan Solicitors, appeared on behalf of Mr Harrison. He told the judge that he was only able to take limited instructions and asked for the matter to be put forward to November 11th.
He also told the judge he did not think it feasible for Mr Harrison and his legal team to respond any earlier than November 11th, given the gravity of the offences. He indicated that a bail application may be lodged.
Mr Justice Binchy said there was no mention of Mr Harrison facing trial in this jurisdiction and put it to Mr McGillicuddy that this is a normal application for a surrender.
Mr McGillicuddy said: “What is outlined in the warrant itself, it appears any allegations against Eamon Harrison did not occur in the issuing state.”
He said the warrant may give rise to a potential Section 44 of the European Arrest Warrant Act 2003 “coming into play”.
The barrister said this is a “difficult section” of the act and added that it had to be considered in the case of Ian Bailey whose extradition to France was refused.
Mr Justice Binchy put the case in for mention on November 11th and set a hearing date of November 21st. He informed Mr Harrison of his rights and told him that he is entitled to voluntarily surrender himself to the UK authorities between now and the hearing date.