Hauliers carrying migrants may face higher penalties

By Categories: NewsPublished On: Tuesday 19 July 2022

The Home Office has opened a consultation on new proposed regulations which would increase the maximum penalties for hauliers and drivers found to be carrying migrants illegally.

The regulations include a new civil penalty for “failure to secure a goods vehicle” which narrows the statutory defences available to those found to be carrying ‘clandestine entrants’ into the UK.

Currently, penalties of up to £2,000 per entrant found on a vehicle can be applied, to “any responsible person connected to the vehicle in question” (namely, the owner, hirer or driver), up to a maximum aggregate for all responsible persons of £4,000 in total per entrant.

These amounts are now proposed to increase, with the consultation positing example penalties of £5,000, £7,500 or £10,000 for individual responsible persons, and total aggregate penalties for all responsible persons of £4,000, £10,000, £15,000 or £20,000 – though respondents can also advocate the status quo, or input their own suggestions.

“We are considering making this change to ensure that the level of penalty provides enough of an incentive to comply with the requirements of the scheme,” said the Home Office.

“We would like to hear your views about this proposal. We would also like to hear your views on whether there should be higher levels of penalties where there are aggravating circumstances and lower levels where there are mitigating circumstances, and what these circumstances should be.

“For example, although it will not be a statutory defence for someone to say that the driver took reasonable steps to secure their vehicle, this could be a mitigating factor to reduce the level of their penalty.”

The Home Office is also seeking of views about the new offence of failing to adequately secure a goods vehicle and what this should mean in practice, including views on penalties that should be applied.

In response to the consultation, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) said its members strongly support ensuring that the UK’s border is safe and effective.

“RHA members and hauliers from Europe have been dealing with the impacts and disruption caused by people seeking to use lorries to conceal themselves to enter the UK,” said the association.

“Drivers and operators are often victims of the criminal activity at the border.

“For many years, the RHA has worked with Border Force and the Home Office to help improve the security of the border, to deal with the issues arising from this problem and the operation of the Clandestine Civil Penalty Regime.

“The RHA is committed to continue to support Border Force and the Home Office work in this area. We will continue to provide insights into the practical challenges drivers and operators face when dealing with criminal gangs and people seeking to force their way into lorries coming into the UK.”

However, the association also warned against “unrealistic expectation” by the government that the onus should always be on the driver and haulier to ensure security whether or not it is in their control.

“Other parties and agencies also have to proactively deter illegal immigration too,” it said.

The consultation, which ends on 12 September, can be found and responded to here.

The Home Office will also run a series of engagement events which it says will explore the topic in more detail. Those who wish to express an interest in joining such an event can email the Home Office via the link above. The closing date for this is 19 August.