Patel pledges life sentences for people smugglers

Home Secretary Priti Patel has vowed to increase the maximum sentence for people smuggling to life imprisonment as she attempts to crack down on the number of illegal migrants arriving in Britain.

The current maximum term for assisting illegal immigration is 14 years imprisonment, which the Home Office reportedly believes is not acting as enough of a deterrent to prevent individuals from becoming involved in the underground business.

Offenders who offer a guilty plea can see their sentence reduced by a third, and with automatic eligibility for release on licence after serving half of their custodial sentence, smugglers hit with the most severe jail term are often only serving four and a half years.

The aim is to increase the length of the average sentence which currently stands at three years.

A Home Office source told the Times newspaper: “At the moment the 14-year maximum sentence does constrain obviously what judges can do because that narrows the range of sentences available.

“We’re not naive enough to imagine that every trial judge is going to be handing down a life sentence for anyone who’s convicted of people smuggling but by having that option available then hopefully we’ll see [life sentences] used in the worst cases, and then in other cases we will start seeing the 12, 15, 20-year sentences that these people aren’t getting at the moment.

“We need the starting point for all of these serious sentences to be much higher and that means the top end has to be at the very highest and that means a life sentence.”

There has been an influx in arrivals of illegal immigrants across the Channel already this year, with the 531 arrivals so far already blowing last year’s record of 279 by this point out of the water.

70 per cent of attempted crossings are however being intercepted and returned to France, according to the Home Office.

2020 was a record year for migrant crossings. 8,410 are known to have made the hazardous journey in total whilst over 15,000 attempted the crossing according to a recent Europol report. In 2019, it was just 1,850.