People Smuggler Jailed After Boat Carrying Migrants Became Stranded Off Devon

July 7, 2021 Updated: July 7, 2021

A human smuggler has been jailed after his boat became stranded off the coast of Devon with eight migrants on board, police said.

James Wisbey, 55, formerly of West Hoe, Plymouth, was the skipper of the yacht which was attempting to bring the eight Albanian nationals through the English Channel.

It became stranded off Horse Coast near Teignmouth, Devon, on December 14 last year.

Wisbey and crewwoman Faye Miles, 38, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to breach the Immigration Act, police said.

The South West Regional Organised Crime Unit (SW ROCU) said Wisbey was jailed for five years and four months at Exeter Crown Court on Tuesday, while Miles was sentenced to two years in prison.

A third person, Indrit Barhani, 32, an Albanian national of no fixed address, also pleaded guilty to the same offence and will be sentenced at a later date.

Detective Inspector Adrian Hawkins, who led the investigation for the SW ROCU, said: “After being arrested, Wisbey, who had tried but failed to make a similar people smuggling trip earlier in the year, even joked to Miles that ‘next time, I’ll do it properly and not take any shortcuts.’

“Hopefully our investigation will ensure there won’t be a next time.

“As the yacht’s skipper, he would have been well aware of the dangers of making that crossing in his small boat, particularly under the cover of darkness, in the middle of winter, and in such rough conditions.

“There were no lifejackets and minimal safety equipment on board his boat.

“Ultimately, he and Miles prioritised the opportunity to make money over the safety of the people they smuggled on board.

“He was essentially a smuggler for hire and the migrants were nothing more than a money making commodity to them.”

The seven men and one woman smuggled to the UK through France told police how the original £2,000 fee increased to £5,000, then £20,000 once on board.

Officers said the migrants described their fear at sailing for more than 24 hours in a cramped, dark space below deck without food or water.

One man told how the boat broke down twice and was leaking oil.

James Le Grys, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “James Wisbey planned to profit significantly from people smuggling.

“His dangerous actions, with the assistance of Faye Miles, caused significant fear to those on board, which could have ended in tragedy and the loss of life.

“We worked closely with the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit and international partners to ensure that action was taken swiftly and sufficient evidence was gathered to build a strong case.

“These criminals put the lives of others at risk to make profit, something that has been reflected by the prison sentences imposed.

“We are committed to bringing those involved in organised immigration crime to justice.”

By Claire Hayhurst