Page last updated at 16:42 GMT, Friday, 5 February 2010

Pair jailed for smuggling immigrants into Portsmouth

Christiane and Benjamin Chocat
Christiane and Benjamin Chocat pleaded guilty last month

A French local councillor and her son have been jailed for helping to smuggle 16 Vietnamese immigrants into the UK.

Christiane Chocat, 51, of Lumigny-Nesles-Ormeaux, France, admitted hiding the group in a vehicle which arrived at Portsmouth on a ferry in October 2009.

Her son Benjamin, 20, of Choisy-Le-Roi, France, pleaded guilty to the same offence last month.

They were sentenced at Portsmouth Crown Court to three years and five years respectively.

Shrimp noodles

Ms Chocat is a local authority councillor in her home town.

The prosecution claimed the Vietnamese immigrants were brought into the UK in a hired van on the Normandy Express ferry from Cherbourg.

Some of the immigrants
Three holes were found drilled inside the van to help the group breathe

The 13 men and three women were found hidden behind boxes of shrimp noodles.

The conditions inside the van were described as "horrendous" by the UK Border Agency.

They found three holes drilled in the side of the van for the group to breathe while they had only been left sugar for them to eat.

All were detained by Hampshire Constabulary and the UK Border Agency and returned to France the same evening.

Tony Smith, from the UK Border Agency, welcomed the sentences.

He added: "UK Border Agency officers and police have worked hard to secure convictions against the pair who had no regard for British immigration laws or those they attempted to smuggle".

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