A yachtsman wanted in Spain over a missing young mum has been jailed for four years and nine months for smuggling 17 Albanian men into Chichester harbour.
Stephen Jackson, 50, stood emotionless as he was jailed for sneaking in the economic migrants on board a catamaran into the unguarded marina in May.
Jackson claimed he thought it was a family of four Albanians he was taking to Britain and discovered it was more as he was about to leave France.
Sentencing Judge Guy Anthony said Jackson had put the lives of the 17 Albanian men in danger by cramming them into the 10 metre long vessel without enough life jackets.
He said: “You transported these men for gain, whether you believed it to be a family of four or not is questionable, but when you discovered it was 17 single men you continued with the procedure.
“One of these men was guilty of trafficking sex offences, although I accept you would not have known that.
“Of all 17, only one claimed asylum, they knew there was not a realistic chance of remaining in this country.
“They were economic migrants who no doubt intended to work on the black market in this country.
“Illegal immigration into this country has attracted a lot of publicity but there are not many cases where there are such a large number of people being transported.
“Whether transported by lorry, or in this case by boat, if done in large numbers the conditions, regardless of the criminality, means there is some risk to their health and safety.
“You were caught red handed, I have no choice but to impose a substantial sentence of imprisonment.”
Earlier his barrister Gregory Fishwick told Lewes Crown Court: “Apart from this offence he appears to be an honest, hard working, conscientious, man.
“He accepts he committed a terrible mistake and he says he will never, ever commit such an offence again.
“As far as his danger to the public, as along as he is kept from sailing I submit that he is of very little danger to the public.”
The court heard Jackson also owns a boat which is moored in Lanzarote in the Canary Islands.
An order was made by the court to confiscated the boat used in the foiled smuggling attempt.
He is also facing extradition to Spain on charges of perverting the course of justice over the disappearance of Lisa Brown from her home near Gibraltar.
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