Phones of migrants found dead in Essex trailer suggest some were alive entering UK
Court hears 30 mobiles found on trailer as British authorities seek surrender of Eamon Harrison (22) for manslaughter
The High Court was told on Thursday that the Crown Prosecution Service had made a “global statement” that the exact cause and place of death of the 39 migrants was unknown. But it seemed “at least some” of the deceased were still alive upon entry into UK territorial waters.
Recordings found on mobile phones belonging to 39 migrants found dead in a refrigerated trailer in Essex in October, suggest “at least some” of them may have been alive after entering UK territorial waters, the High Court in Dublin has been told.
British authorities are seeking the surrender of Eamon Harrison (22) from Mayobridge, Co Down, to face 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and conspiracy to commit human trafficking under the UK’s Modern Slavery Act.
It is alleged that Mr Harrison had a role in transporting the trailer in which the bodies of eight women and 31 men were found in an industrial park in Grays, Essex on October 23 last.
He is alleged to have delivered the trailer to a Belgian port before it’s onward journey to Britain, where it was collected from the Port of Purfleet, Essex by Maurice Robinson (25), from Craigavon, Co Armagh, who was arrested by Essex police at the scene.
Mr Harrison, a dual Irish-British citizen, was subsequently arrested in Ireland on foot of a European Arrest Warrant by detectives from the Garda’s extradition unit and is fighting his proposed extradition to the UK through the Irish High Court.
The High Court sought further information from UK authorities last month in relation to a number of alleged factual matters contained in the warrant seeking Mr Harrison’s surrender.
Counsel for Mr Harrison, Siobhán Stack SC, told the High Court on Thursday that the Crown Prosecution Service had made a “global statement” that the exact cause and place of death of the 39 migrants was unknown. But it seemed “at least some” of the deceased were still alive upon entry into UK territorial waters.
Citing the additional information, Ms Stack said some 30 mobile phones belonging to the deceased were found in the trailer. Some of the deceased made recordings on those phones and multiples voices could be heard on the recordings.
On that basis, Ms Stack said the Crown Prosecution Service was alleging that some of the deceased died after they entered UK territorial waters at approximately 1900 hours on October 22.
As such, there was an issue in relation to territoriality and it was unclear whether Mr Harrison is to be prosecuted for manslaughter committed inside the UK or in Belgium, Ms Stack said.
She submitted that the manslaughter as alleged did not correspond to an offence under Irish law. It was required to show a dangerous act accompanying an unlawful act, but there was really “nothing to say what the dangerous act” allegedly was.
It was not alleged that Mr Harrison placed the deceased into the trailer. It was not alleged that Mr Harrison knew the people were in the trailer nor that there were 39 of them, Ms Stack said.
It was simply alleged that Mr Harrison transported the trailer but there was nothing to say where the people were collected, who collected them or who put them in the trailer, she added.
There were too many “critical missing facts” in relation to manslaughter and the High Court was being asked to fill in too many blanks, she submitted.
Ms Stack said the original warrant was rendered fundamentally defective by an “extreme lack of information”. She said the warrant was “so brief, perhaps rushed”, that information “simply wasn’t given” and was “contradictory” in certain parts.
In response to the High Court’s request for additional information, Ms Stack said the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service had “effectively rewritten the warrant”, which wasn’t permitted. The additional information should have been sent over in the first place, she said.
Furthermore, “virtually” all of the additional information given to the High Court had come from the Crown Prosecution Service, and not the issuing judicial authority as it should have been, Ms Stack submitted. She said extradition law required the information to come from a judicial authority that was independent in the exercise of it’s functions.
Counsel for the Minister for Justice, Ronan Kennedy SC, said it was important to remember that “mutual trust” and “mutual recognition” exists between Member States in European extradition proceedings.
Mr Kennedy said the European Arrest Warrant system was designed to tackle “transnational crime” and the authorities must act “promptly” when crime occurs. A warrant can be issued and be in all Member States quickly so people are brought to justice, he said.
Counsel said the warrant in respect of Mr Harrison was issued “promptly” because the suspect was in France at the time and had made his way to Ireland. “One might say that time was of the essence,” Mr Kennedy added.
He said the warrant did not initially set out the degree of Mr Harrison’s alleged participation in the offences, but the degree of alleged participation was now before the court on foot of additional information which was part of the EAW process.
The hearing continues on Friday before Mr Justice Donald Binchy.
On a previous occasion, Det Sgt Jim Kirwan, of the garda’s extradition unit, told the High Court 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,” the detective said.
He said a shipping notice provided at Zeebrugge was allegedly signed in the name ‘Eamonn Harrison’, who then travelled back to Ireland via a ferry from Cherbourg, France.”
Mr Justice Binchy, the High Court judge in charge of extradition, has said the matter needed to be dealt with expeditiously because “Brexit” loomed large over the surrender request, as it did over all other pending extradition requests to the UK.