Truckers delighted with victory

PUBLISHED: 16:58 06 December 2001 | UPDATED: 10:59 03 March 2010

TRUCKERS at Felixstowe today proclaimed as "fantastic news" a victory over the government's laws to fine them £2,000 if stowaways were found aboard their lorries.

TRUCKERS at Felixstowe today proclaimed as "fantastic news" a victory over the government's laws to fine them £2,000 if stowaways were found aboard their lorries.

Hauliers said they were being made scapegoats to try to stop the tide of human cargo sweeping into Britain – and that many innocent lorry drivers faced prosecution.

But the High Court has now ruled the measures as unlawful and "legislative overkill" and said they should be abandoned at once.

The Home Office said it would be appealing against the decision.

In Felixstowe's portside business parks, hauliers were delighted with the High Court ruling.

"It is really good news for hauliers – and a weight off our minds," said Charles Reed, managing director of James Kemball Ltd, of Hodgkinson Road.

"It had placed many drivers going back and forth from the continent on the ferries and via Eurotunnel in a very difficult predicament.

"I know it has been proven that one or two drivers have been in on these illegal immigrant rackets, but in the vast majority of cases the driver is perfectly innocent and yet they faced a £2,000 fine if human cargo was found."

Mr Reed called for more X-ray screening of lorries and containers to ascertain whether any stowaways had secreted themselves on board.

"They do this at Felixstowe but it is not routine and I understand the process is very slow. We need to find a newer quicker method so that lorries can drive through and be searched in this way – it has got to come," he said.

Another haulage boss described the judges' comments as "a great relief". He said a number of drivers had expressed worries about immigrants sneaking into lorries, especially beneath canvas-sided vehicles, or lying on the top of the box.

"The driver can make a thorough check of his vehicle, but if the container is locked and sealed he cannot check inside – yet he is still guilty! It's been a ridiculous law and we said that right from the start, but the government wouldn't listen," he said.

Richard Turner, chief executive, of the Freight Transport Association said it was: "Fantastic news. It confirms what the FTA has said all along – lorry drivers are the innocent party but are treated as guilty criminals. The Government will now have to seriously consider the way forward for this policy," he said.

Mr Justice Sullivan, sitting in the High Court, said the regime introduced by the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act was not compatible with the right to a fair trial under the European Convention on Human Rights.

In his 131-page ruling, he said the disproportionate nature of the penalty showed in the fact that it imposed liability upon a wide range of "responsible persons."

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